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    HomeSportsDrake Dobbs overcomes academic struggles, sparks St. Thomas basketball

    Drake Dobbs overcomes academic struggles, sparks St. Thomas basketball


    Drake Dobbs had two of the best years of his basketball life followed by the two lowest points. All of it turned him into the leader he is now on a St. Thomas team contending in the Summit League.

    On a 2020 Star Tribune All-Metro team with McDonald’s All-Americans Jalen Suggs and Dawson Garcia and future No. 1 high school player Chet Holmgren, Dobbs stood out.

    The shifty and sharpshooting 6-2 guard led his 28-0 Eden Prairie squad to victories against Suggs, Holmgren and Garcia. In his freshman year in college, Dobbs played in the NCAA tournament at Liberty.

    Suddenly, though, Dobbs’ basketball career hit a snag after he transferred home to play for St. Thomas.

    Dobbs found himself in a place he never expected to be in as a great player and student most of his life. After sitting out, he became academically ineligible.

    “That was really hard on me,” Dobbs said. “I’ve always had good grades. I’ve always been super successful and never had a setback like that.”

    Dobbs isn’t ashamed to talk about that rocky start after transferring mid-season in 2021. He turned adversity into achievement. Now a starting senior point guard for a team successfully transitioning from Division III to Division I, he has a new attitude and approach. He’s a better player, person and teammate.

    “It’s been a long time coming,” Dobbs said. “My college route hasn’t been easy. I kind of shot myself in the foot a couple times in the past two years. But credit [Tommies coach Johnny Tauer] and the coaching staff. They believed in me and gave me a second chance.”

    The Tommies (14-8) are tied for second in the Summit League with a 4-3 record through Tuesday. Tauer has St. Thomas already four victories away from tying the regular season win total from last season.

    Dobbs has made the case to be the most improved player in the league. He’s averaging 9.9 points and 2.6 assists in 22 starts. He ranks fifth in Division I in free throw percentage (94.4). Not bad for a guy who averaged just 2.2 points and 9.1 minutes in 11 games last season.

    “I think it’s gratifying to see Drake step into this role and emerge,” Tauer said. “We all love having him out there. Partly because of his leadership but also partly because of the job he does. He’s tireless.”

    After transferring to St. Thomas from Liberty, and sitting out for a half season under the NCAA’s old transfer rules, Dobbs was expected to start for the Tommies last year. He was shocked when that opportunity was gone after failing summer school.

    “I ended up missing 22 games, so that was really tough,” said Dobbs, who couldn’t play the first semester last season.

    Dobbs regained his eligibility at the end of the conference season, but frustration set in as he struggled to figure out his role. He admitted to having a poor attitude and body language in practice. A meeting with Tauer and St. Thomas’ coaching staff last spring changed his outlook.

    “We talked about what’s my role and what they wanted me to do,” Dobbs said. “It was a cumulation of habits every single day. Me doing the same things over and over. The things you learn throughout college are unbelievable. The things I know now I wish I could’ve told myself my freshman year.”

    It’s possible the younger Dobbs wouldn’t have listened. Still full of confidence and fearlessness, the older version of Dobbs will do anything to win. Just look at how he battled Marquette’s All-America point guard Tyler Kolek in a tight loss earlier this season. But Dobbs also has found a new perspective at St. Thomas.

    “The biggest thing I learned was to control my attitude and control my emotions at all stages of the game on the court and even off the court,” Dobbs said. “When things are going awry, I’m not going to be the guy who is negative or putting others down.”

    Bringing positive energy and competitive fire to St. Thomas this season, Dobbs leads the team in minutes played (30.5) and ranks fourth on the team in scoring behind seniors Parker Bjorklund (13.9) and Raheem Anthony (12.1) and sophomore Kendall Blue (10.3).

    The Tommies need Dobbs on the floor as much as possible, also because of his improved defense. They rank 19th in the nation holding foes to 64.7 points per game.

    Eleven of Dobbs’ 12 career double figure scoring games also came this season. He had a career-high 18 points in an 81-80 home loss vs. Summit League leader South Dakota State on Jan. 11.

    After Dobbs fouled out with under three minutes that night, St. Thomas was outscored 11-4. That was an example of how much he means to the team this year.

    “He doesn’t take a play off and fights to get in the right spot over and over,” Tauer said. “That doesn’t show up on a stat sheet. That’s not something that goes in the headline.”

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    FULLER’S FIVE

    Five Minnesota ballers who stood out:

    Parker Bjorklund, St. Thomas

    The 6-7 senior led the Tommies to a 79-66 win last week against North Dakota State with 32 points on 5-for-10 shooting from three-point range.

    Curtis Jones, Iowa State

    The former Cretin-Derham Hall guard averaged 15 points and three steals (seven steals vs. Texas Christian) in wins vs. Kansas, TCU and Kansas State. His 15 points were huge in an upset over KU.

    Olivia Olson, Benilde-St. Margaret’s

    The 6-1 senior finished with 67 points combined in back-to-back victories, including 35 points in a 76-63 win last week at St. Michael-Albertville.

    Amber Scalia, St. Thomas

    Former Stillwater star had a career-high 32 points on 5-for-10 shooting from three and 9-for-12 shooting from the foul line in last Saturday’s 76-66 win vs. North Dakota.

    Kam’Ron Solomon, Hiawatha Collegiate

    The 6-3 junior had 40 points with eight threes in a win against Minnehaha Academy. It was the fourth time in five games with at least eight threes, including 10 vs. St. Paul Washington.

    NUMBERS GAME

    6,000 Career points for Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, the third-youngest player (22) in NBA history to reach that mark, joining LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

    50 Consecutive starts to start her Gophers career for sophomore Mallory Heyer, now the team’s top scorer with teammate Mara Braun sidelined indefinitely after foot surgery.

    18 Consecutive wins through Monday to start the season for undefeated No. 1 Class 3A Breck boys basketball team, led by senior guard and Wisconsin recruit Daniel Freitag.

    16 Points behind for the Gophers men before rallying to win at Penn State 83-74.

    7 Years in a row Minnesota had a player selected to the McDonald’s All-American boys or girls games, including Hopkins’ Liv McGill and BSM’s Olivia Olson last week.

    1 National Division II ranking earlier this season for both Minnesota State Mankato and MSU Moorhead, which faced off for the first time Saturday. Mankato won 81-78 at home to improve to 19-1.

    . . .

    Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on startribune.com. Don’t be a stranger on X after reading — chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on X).



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