IRON MOUNTAIN, (Mich.)- The Iron Mountain Boys Basketball team has found success with the emergence of freshman Oskar Kangas.

“The sky is the limit for him,” said Bucky Johnson, the head coach for Iron Mountain. “He’s big, he’s 6″5, he’s got some skill with the ball, he’s a good finisher around the basket. He’s got some pretty good moves with his back to the basket. He’s got some room to grow in just some physical stature, age, maturity, and development.”

Kangas has been impressive in his first year as a Mountaineer. But his success hasn’t come without growing pains.

“I struggled earlier in the year but as I got more and more used to the competition and the physicality my confidence gained more and more,” said Kangas. “Slowly I was able to knock down more and more shots, getting able to grab more and more boards every game and being able to find my teammates, get them open shots as well as getting open shots myself.”

Maybe I was putting too much pressure on him.” said Johnson. “But I don’t want to say I expected more, but then all of a sudden, the last 12,13,15 games he just, poof, he’s had some really big games against some pretty good defensive clubs. He averages 21.5 points. He scored 403 points this year as a freshman. He gets about 11.5 rebounds per game and really about 3 blocks a game. I’ve never really had a shot-blocker like him.”

That progress has earned Kangas a spot on the Mid-Peninsula Conference First Team and the West-Pac Conference Dream Team.

“I think the other night I told him, I said, you got a bullseye on your back as big as the U.P,” said Johnson. “I said everybody knows you and they’re going to come after you. I said you got to become a better passer when you get doubled and tripled. These are all things going forward that we’re going to get better at.”

“As I grow as a player I’d like to improve on my defense a little bit more because that’s just important as offense,” said Kangas. “Everyone knows the saying: ‘Offense wins games and defense wins championships.’ Obviously, seeing in years past and seeing state championship runs I know if I want to get like that, if I want to be on a team that gets that far, I know we’re going to have to play good defense and succeed in that.”

Kangas has seen a snapshot of success at the state level. Now his goal is to experience it as a player.

“He was the towel man underneath the basket at the Breslin Center and I got a picture of him,” said Johnson. “He was the towel man and I said one of my goals is to get you one of those. Get you back down there and get you back in the gym at the Breslin. So, you know we’ll see what happens, that’s our goal, that’s what we’re going to work for, we’re going to strive for it.”

“Seeing people like Marcus (Johnson) and Foster (Wonders) make it up there, you know, being in the state championship and being in the sidelines in that picture, since then I was always like, I want to be like that, I want to get there, I want to be able to do that stuff,” said Kangas. “So, that’s always been a motivation for me.”

“I challenge the heck out of Oskar,” said Johnson. “But he’s taken every challenge and he knows that my heart is, my heart is with him, you know, my intentions are good for him. He’s handled it really well, you know. He looks me in the eye when I coach him. He knows I’m all in for him and he’s all in for us. I’m just proud of what he’s accomplished. It’s fun to coach kids that love the game of basketball and I’ve been blessed with that here at Iron Mountain for a number of years and I just really enjoy the heck out of it.”

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