Bemidji State senior guard Seth Haake has developed from the player nobody wanted into the top scorer in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
His journey from castoff to clutch player started with a bit of persistence coupled with a gamble from BSU head men's basketball coach Matt Bowen.
"When I came out of high school I was a little small, I developed late and some people thought I didn't have much potential," said Haake, a 2006 Eden Prairie graduate. "I went to North Dakota to try and walk on, but they had a full roster and told me to wait another year."
Haake did not wait and turned his eyes to Bemidji State after scouting BSU with his brother Max, who played at Northwestern College in St. Paul. Haake came to BSU requesting a roster spot and Bowen, in his first year as BSU coach at the time, had questions of the 5-foot-11 guard listed at 176 pounds.
"I begrudgingly took him and it turned out to be one of the best decisions I've ever made," Bowen said. "We were in the middle of an 0-13 season and I thought, how could this get any worse? So I took a chance on Seth and in true Seth fashion, about six or seven days after he came here, he hit a wide open 3-pointer against Crookston. I looked over at (assistant coach) Jeremy Tiers and said 'well, that worked out well.'"
Bowen and Tiers took the gamble based on a little videotape and one workout.
Four years later that decision has paid off as Haake leads the NSIC in scoring with a 20 points per game average and appears to be a lock for a first-team All-NSIC selection.
Haake's ascent to the elite ranks of NSIC players has been a slow and gradual one.
He started in 13 of the 15 BSU games his freshman season after joining the team at Christmas, averaged seven points per game and led the team in shooting percentage at 44 percent.
He was a regular starter as a sophomore and upped his scoring average to eight points per game during an all-Academic season.
As a junior, Haake started to show signs of his emergence as a top-tier player when he averaged 13 points per game and led the team in rebounds per game. His scoring average was the highest for a BSU player since the 2003-04 season.
"He's such a highly intelligent basketball player because he's the model of efficency," Bowen said. "No one in their right mind would think Seth can do what he does. He's deceptively quick and a much better athlete than what he looks."
Haake has the ability to hit the open jumper on the wing and drive through a pair of forwards under the basket for a layup.
He hopes to close out the season strong as the Beavers head into the final game of the season Saturday at Wayne State. Haake is coming off a career-high 36 point performance in BSU's 98-90 win Wednesday over Minnesota-Duluth.
"I think this year it's just been the culmination of a lot of hard work, I'm used to the coaches and I'm able to work with my team in the systems to be successful," Haake said.
It has been a challenging year for the Beavers, which saw three projected starters suspended early in the season for violating the BSU Student-Athlete Code of Conduct. With a new and younger starting lineup after the suspensions, BSU struggled and won just two of the next 13 games. Since then, BSU has won five straight and is looking for six in the regular season finale.
A win against Wayne State (12-14 overall, 9-10 NSIC) would move the Beavers (12-14 overall, 8-11 NSIC) a tie for eighth place in the final standings and there is a chance BSU could make the NSIC postseason tournament based on tiebreakers.
"I'm very proud of our kids, they've really made some significant strides and have been fun to coach and fun to watch," Bowen said. "The tiebreaker is a math equation that I don't really understand but I know if we lose, we have no chance. We'll let the people with the pencils figure it out."
Chances are the Beavers will need to lean on Haake to avenge the 78-66 loss to Wayne State suffered earlier this season as part of that 2-11 stretch.
"There's a lot of good players in this league and I never thought I would be leading in conference scoring because the league is so balanced," Haake said. "It's a surprise."