AAU BASKETBALL: Taking the next step

Marshall native Jay Fuhrmann serves as a guide for aspiring basketball players on the AAU stage

Photo courtesy of Cole Cooper Photography Jay Fuhrmann strolls up the sidelines of a recent game for his 17U D1 Minnesota AAU basketball team in the Adidas Gold division Gauntlet circut. Fuhrmann, a Marshall native and SMSU graduate, serves as a leader both on and off the court for high school players looking to continue their skills on the national level.

MINNEAPOLIS – When the prep basketball season has come to an end and the state champions have been crowned, a whole new season begins for players looking to continue honing their skills into the summer months. It’s no different here in Minnesota, with AAU teams competing across the state and around the nation in various tournaments. The crown jewel of them all is the 17U D1 Minnesota team that competes in the Adidas Gold division Gauntlet circuit. The team is comprised of some of the nation’s most highly sought-after recruits like 5-star small forward Matthew Hurt of Rochester John Marshall and 4-star athletes in power forward Zeke Nnaji of Hopkins and point guard Tyrell Terry of De La Salle just to name a few.

Guiding this collection of mega talent is Marshall native and former Southwest Minnesota State University basketball player Jay Fuhrmann, who seemed destined to coach from an early point in his life.

Fuhrmann has followed in the footsteps of the great Roger Schaeffer, who served as Marshall’s boys basketball coach for 14 years, including three with Fuhrmann manning the point guard position. Fuhrmann learned invaluable lessons from the recent South Dakota Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame inductee.

“He helped turn me into more of a leader on all aspects, and that stuck with me throughout my coaching,” said Fuhrmann.

The student has since become the master as Fuhrmann has taken over the responsibility of molding young men into leaders on and off the court.

Fuhrmann has served as a guide to a group of players who are looking to take their talents to the next level at some of the nation’s most accomplished basketball programs. Fuhrmann serves as more than just a coach to these players. He draws from his own experiences of picking a college to ensure that his players are getting everything they want out of the program that they inevitably choose.

“I have a lot of conversations about knowing your foundation – what’s important for you,” said Furhrmann. “What are you looking for in a school? Be prepared to ask certain questions to these colleges. So that’s the thought aspect of it as well. It’s about basketball, but it’s about teaching them how to ask questions and be an adult.”

Understanding the crucial role of serving as a guide to these young men makes for a daunting task in itself. Leading them into competition and being able to represent the state of Minnesota against other state’s best collections of talent is just one more layer of an already difficult job to undertake. In spite of the pressure, Fuhrmann appreciates the fact that he gets to represent his home state and do it at such a high level.

“To have success against other states best teams – there’s a lot of pride that goes into that,” said Fuhrmann.

Success may be an understatement as D1 Minnesota has established itself as one of the premier prep circuit teams in the highest level of competition at the gold level. Currently sitting with a record of 25-1 and ranked fifth overall across all three league affiliates – Under Armour, Adidas and Nike, D1 Minnesota is a powerhouse with a collection of players possessing a level of talent that is unmatched to that of past years.

Talent can only get you so far in a league that has an abundance of it, though. Fuhrmann points to his team’s unselfish nature as one of the driving forces for the team’s monumental run thus far.

“They have the height, they have the skill (and) they have the athleticism,” said Fuhrmann. “But what separates these guys from most teams we see on the Adidas gauntlet circuit is their unselfishness. Making the extra pass. Giving up a good shot to get a teammate a great shot. To me, that’s what separates us and that’s the feedback I hear a lot from college coaches.”

One such player who embodies all of the characteristics that Fuhrmann praises is a player out of Ames, Iowa. Small forward Japannah Kellogg Jr. is one of two players on the roster who didn’t play Minnesota high school basketball, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a connection to the state, or to Fuhrmann for that matter.

Kellogg Jr.’s dad, Japannah Kellogg Sr., was a fixture on the SMSU basketball team in the early ’90s. As a kid Fuhrmann idolized these players as he sat courtside taking it all in.

“My parents would take me to every single SMSU game and we’d watch the games,” said Fuhrmann. “I’d get my nachos and a Coke and watch these guys. Again (they) were my idols. Japannah (Sr.) was on that team and so I got to watch him.”

The relationship has come full circle 25 years later with Fuhrmann starting to prepare Kellogg Jr., along with the rest of his players, for their next chapter in a college uniform.

Before all of his players make their mark on a D1 program, Fuhrmann will lead them into New York City for the Adidas Gauntlet finale tournament today. It’s the first tournament of three for the team who will go on to travel to Los Angeles and Chicago for the final two tournaments, all in the month of July.

When it’s all said and done, Fuhrmann and his team have one goal set in mind.

“We’d like to win every single game and be looked at as the best team in the nation–regardless of Nike, Adidas or Under Armour,” said Fuhrmann.