The Sussex Hamilton boys basketball team has had its share of memorable scorers over the years. Just recently, Brady Ellingson, the school's all-time leading scorer and current University of Iowa basketball player, was the go-to guy when it came to putting the ball in the basket. Before Ellingson came Brett Meinecke and Kameron Cerroni, now an assistant coach for the Chargers.
This season, the box scores are dominated by senior Jacob Hartung. It wasn't always the role Hartung played, though. As a sophomore, Hartung came off the bench on a team led by Ellingson. Last season, Hartung broke his left wrist and missed 11 games. By the end of his junior year, it was clear great things were ahead.
Lighting up the scoreboard
Through 15 games, Hartung averages 23.1 points per contest and has made 42.9 percent of his 3-point attempts. He shoots 90 percent at the free-throw line.
If opponents didn't consider Hartung the new face of Hamilton scoring before this season, they do now. But those numbers don't come easily. This is something Hartung has worked on and continues to fine tune.
After each practice, the senior spends 45 minutes to an hour shooting from long distance with Cerroni. In the summer after open gyms finished up, Hartung and Cerroni would just focus on more shooting.
'He's done so much to help my shot,' Hartung said of his assistant coach. 'It's been nice.'
Even before the countless hours with Cerroni in the gym, Hartung would practice as a child in the driveway with his father, who served as Jacob's permanent re bounder. Hartung is also flexible when it comes to different shooting styles. Off-the-dribble shots were a focus in the summer, but he's more comfortable with a catch-and-shoot style.
Hartung is one of three senior captains this year (Mikey Bruch and Travis Janus are the others), and has developed as a player and leader from the guidance of former stars like Cerroni and Ellingson.
'I definitely learned a lot from (Ellingson),' Hartung said. 'I feel like he handled himself really well on the court. He never got frustrated. I guess I kind of struggled with that my sophomore year. I'd always get down on myself. You have to stay upbeat when you're playing with everyone else.'
The Chargers, 11-4 this year, are successful partly because of their outstanding team shooting, but also because of strong chemistry.
'Everyone in the locker room is best friends,' Hartung said. 'After a loss, everyone is kind of in good spirits. It's just one game. Next game, we're going to win.'
That motto has worked for Hamilton, as it has not lost back-to-back games.
Head coach Andy Cerroni knows Hartung plays an important part, but also realizes he's one aspect to a complex attack Hamilton presents to its opponents.
'Kids like him,' Cerroni said. 'I think people respect his game. I think that's the No. 1 thing that his game is respected by everybody else, and they know what he can do. He gives us an opportunity to win games, and I think everybody on the team knows what he can do. He knows those guys are going to get him the ball when he's open. He knows that what they do for him are just as important as what he does for us. Without that, he doesn't get what he gets. It's a mutual respect kind of thing between those guys.'
At this point, Hartung is unsure of his college plans. If he decides not to pursue basketball, Hartung's other love, math, is something he'll continue in college. He even had to take classes at UW-Waukesha last year because it offered complex courses like calculus III and linear algebra. In middle school, Hartung and teammate Hayden Barth would make the short trek together to the high school to take advanced math classes. Following his passion for math could lead Hartung to the field of engineering some day.
But right now the present is what's crucial to the Hamilton basketball team. Good things have happened this season, and the ride isn't over just yet.
'I've been doing it my entire life,' Hartung said. 'I work so hard and this may be my last year. You might as well try and go out on top. I've spent all this time, and I love the game. It feels like it's the right way to end, to keep pushing until it's over.'