LAKE CITY, Minn. — Lake City basketball coach Greg Berge witnessed the growth of the University of Northern Iowa’s most recent commit firsthand.
Nate Heise shares a grade with Berge’s son, Jackson, and has been working to develop his skill set as part of a longtime daily routine. The 2020 recruit announced his commitment to UNI Monday night.
“He’s a kid who thrives with competition,” said Berge. “I’ve seen him play against the very best and it always brings out his very best. It’s been that way his whole life.”
According to Berge, Heise’s drive and mindset are two characteristics that have stood out within the development of the combo guard who grew to 6-foot-4, helping Lake City reach Minnesota’s AA state tournament two of the past three years. The basketball player from the community of 5,000 — 40 miles north of Rochester, Minn. — has become one of the state’s most accurate perimeter shooters.
“Throughout my life, I’ve put in a lot of time because it’s my passion to continue to get better and win games,” Heise said.
The Heise household has never lacked competition.
Nate’s parents, Amy and Tony, each played basketball at UW-River Falls. His younger brother, Ryan, is an eighth grader who shares an interest in basketball, while his older sister, Taylor, just completed her freshman hockey season at the University of Minnesota after earning the state’s 2018 Ms. Hockey honor.
Similar to Taylor’s recruiting process, Nate says he realized UNI was the right fit during his visit to the school.
“We always had a lot of competition when we were young with all the sports stuff, and things along those lines,” Heise said, addressing his sister’s influence. “That definitely made me tougher being able to compete against somebody who I looked up to.”
Heise has grown from a 5-foot-10, 150-pound freshman into a 6-4, 185-pound frame that is still expanding. He knocked down 45 percent of his 3-point attempts as an underclassman before moving back to the point guard position that he grew up playing this past season.
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After averaging 22 points with nearly seven rebounds, five assists and 2.5 steals per game as a junior, Heise has shown that he is becoming a more complete two-way player.
“His ability to shoot is going to be the first thing people can see,” Berge said. “But his ability to create winning basketball plays and be a good passer and compete on both ends of the floor and rebound is something that I think can really translate to the next level.”
Heise says he’s committed to adding strength, athleticism and explosiveness to the skills he’s cultivated since childhood. That work is already paying dividends with the Minnesota Fury on the AAU circuit.
“He went from the beginning of the season, barely being able to dunk, to I think he had five dunks in his AAU tournament last weekend,” Berge said.
The list of schools Heise considered included North Dakota State, South Dakota State, Davidson, Drake, North Dakota and nearby NCAA Division II options. Location, continuity within UNI’s coaching staff and recent tradition were factors that led to Cedar Falls.
Heise joins North Scott’s 6-foot-6 Ty Anderson as UNI’s first two 2020 commits.
“They thought I could step in, either right away or a year after, as a guy who can make open threes, who can bring the ball up if necessary, who can play good defense and just make plays in the offense that they run,” Heise said.
It’s likely the athlete who arrives in Cedar Falls in 2020 will look much different than the junior who ran the point for Lake City.
“I’m excited to see what he looks like come our basketball season, and then as he gets to UNI,” Berge said. “His skill set is so good that when he can match that with the physicality and the strength and athleticism needed for that next level, I think his potential is off the chart.”
Added Heise, “I’m looking forward to developing the relationships with my teammates and the coaches, and just hopefully having a lot of success — enjoying my time down there and making a lot of memories.”