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Senior John Sutherland of Grand Rapids High School is the All-Iron Range Boys Basketball Player of the Year.

GRAND RAPIDS — As a sophomore, John Sutherland was a good player for the Grand Rapids High School boys basketball team but there was no indication that he would be a dominant player in the future.

However, through hard work and refining his athletic skills, Sutherland was able to turn his final two seasons of high school ball with the Thunderhawks into a highlight reel as he averaged more than 27 points per game as a junior and more than 31 points this season as a senior. He was fourth in the state this season as he scored 793 points, and also was fourth in the state with a scoring average of 31.7 points per game. His 316 rebounds was third in the state while his 13.2 rebounds per game ranked him seventh in the state.

It is for his outstanding season and career that the 6-foot, 7-inch Sutherland – who will play basketball next season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth – has been named the All-Iron Range Boys Basketball Player of the Year by the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, the Hibbing Daily Tribune and the Mesabi Daily News.

“It’s a great honor, especially with all the great athletes around here,” said Sutherland about being named the top player. “There was a bunch of great competition to play against.”

Grand Rapids head coach Dan Elhard said Sutherland was a solid starter when he was a sophomore and grew and developed in his final two years with the Thunderhawks. He said he is proof that hard work pays off.

“He was a guy who just caught fire,” said Elhard. “He played his basketball every day, all year long, and he really developed his game to a point by his senior year. He was a pretty good player as a sophomore but to take the strides that he did in those two years was just outstanding. I am not taking any credit for it; he has that work ethic and that drive that you need to be able to be successful.

“What is impressive is that he is such a great shooter. I think a lot of players would have fallen in love with the three and stayed outside and bombed away; I mean he shot 46 percent from the 3-point line and 65 percent on 2-pointers.

“But his senior year especially he was just so efficient in scoring from the paint and being able to get shots off and score over guys, through guys or around guys. He was just incredibly efficient; if he got the ball within five feet of the basket he was going to find a way to score.”

Sutherland said teams did everything they could to limit him offensively this year, from holding his arms to grabbing and pushing. He said he felt he had a good senior season other than the fact the team did not make it to the state tournament.

“My teammates got me the ball in a good spot so I could score and I could kick it out too,” said Sutherland. “I always crashed the boards hard and when I got the rebound I would go back up or kick it out. We had a rough year my junior season but we turned it around this year. I had some great guys to play with and I loved the coaches. It was a lot of fun.”

Elhard said Sutherland is quiet, shy and humble off the court, calling him one of the nicest persons he has ever met. But he said that changes when Sutherland is on the basketball court.

“John has an edge to him on the court; he is still kind of quiet but he is a very fierce competitor and you see him practice and in games that he just won’t be denied,” Elhard explained. “He is the kind of guy you want leading the team. His effort – on the offensive end especially – was just outstanding.”

Elhard said he was told by a Division I men’s basketball coach that he would like to have Sutherland and let him develop in his program.

“As far as offensive skills, John certainly reminded me a lot of (former Grand Rapids and University of Minnesota star) Dusty Rychart his senior year,” Elhard said. “If the situation was right, I think he might have been able to play at a higher level. So I think it’s a great gift for UMD to get Johnny.”

Sutherland said he is excited to get going in the UMD program, especially because he has friends who will be playing basketball there too.

Following is the entire 2019-20 All-Iron Range Boys Basketball Team of the Year:

Following is the entire 2019-20 All-Iron Range Boys Basketball Team of the Year:

FIRST TEAM: John Sutherland, senior, Grand Rapids; Dylan DeChampeau, senior, Greenway; Ayden McDonald, sophomore, Hibbing; Jayden Bernard, senior, Virginia; Jeff Lorenz, junior, Nashwauk-Keewatin.

SECOND TEAM: Trevor Morrison, North Woods; Will Bittmann, Eveleth-Gilbert; Asher Zubich, Mt. Iron-Buhl; Hunter Hannuksela, junior, Mesabi East; Mayson Brown, Hibbing.

HONORABLE MENTION: Kyle Williams, senior, Virginia; Mason Carlson, junior, Virginia; Jake Sickel, senior Eveleth-Gilbert; Jude Sundquist, sophomore, Chisholm; Mikhail Wakonabo, sophomore, Deer River; Liam Prato, senior, Bigfork; Gordon Skaar, senior, Greenway; Jack Lorenz, junior, Nashwauk-Keewatin; Spencer Engel, senior, Nashwauk-Keewatin; Dylan Fenske, senior, Ely; Eric Omerza, senior, Ely; T.J. Chiabotti, sophomore, North Woods; Tre Holmes, junior, Hibbing; Matthew Welch, junior, Cherry; Isaac Asuma, eighth-grader, Cherry.

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