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Henriksen uses past experiences in first year at SCW

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Mitchell native Matt Henriksen coaches the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket boys basketball team during a game against Corsica-Stickney on Dec. 19 in Woonsocket. He is in his first season as the SCW coach. Cayden Slykhuis (14) is also pictured. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

FORESTBURG -- Mitchell basketball was a staple for most of Matt Henriksen’s life. It still runs deep, but now he’s establishing roots as a Blackhawk.

Henriksen was a key cog for Gary Munsen in the last two Kernel teams to reach the state finals, finishing as a runner-up in 2011 and 2012. Then he played for Dakota Wesleyan University in the early stages of the Matt Wilber era, before serving as an assistant for Wes Morgan and the Mitchell girls basketball team.

Three years ago, however, Henriksen got a teaching job and joined the Sanborn Central/Woonsocket staff as the coach-in-waiting for boys basketball coach Rod Weber. Henriksen became the head coach for SCW prior to this season after Weber retired, allowing him to mold his Mitchell upbringing with his own style, but he is all Blackhawk now.

“Ever since my first day here, I’ve loved being here,” Henriksen said. “Between these two schools, the fan base is awesome. They’ve accepted me, win or lose. I’ve started my family here and my wife is from here.”

Henriksen knew he would eventually become the head coach at SCW, but rather than anxiously waiting to take the top spot, he enjoyed working with the junior varsity team. Just as Henriksen did, those players have now moved up to the varsity team to help create a simple transition.

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Using all of his successful basketball mentors, Henriksen wanted to establish his own program and his own philosophy.

“I want a culture like a family -- that’s how it was in Mitchell,” Henriksen said. “Our kids know how to grind and put the work in. Most importantly, I want the kids in school, getting good grades and teaching them responsibility. Helping kids outside of basketball is the most important thing I want to change around here.”

He cannot deny the influence former coaches have on him, however, and Henriksen can’t say one has made more of an impact than another. Along with his own style, pieces of each coach Henriksen has worked or played under have been integrated in his program.

Morgan is attributed with uncovering his passion for coaching after Henriksen cautiously accepted a position on the staff despite uncertainty of coaching as a profession he wanted to pursue. He also admits Munsen’s influence may be more visible than the others after inheriting the former Kernel coach’s fiery demeanor on the sidelines.

“I’m going to yell, I like to yell, but the kids know that I’m doing it because I see the potential in them,” Henriksen said. “I’m not yelling to yell. I’m yelling for a reason. My parents call me Munsen Jr. every once in a while.”

Between his days as a Kernel and a Tiger, Henriksen is accustomed to success and championships. But he took over a program that has been on the cusp of reaching the state tournament for the first time as a co-op.

The Blackhawks have been regulars in the SoDak 16, including a 72-59 loss to White River last season. SCW is 5-4 this season, led by double-double machine and all-state forward Noah Dickson.

Reaching the state tournament is a goal for the program and Henriksen wants his players to share the same experience he did as a high school player.

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“I experienced the state tournament every year I was in high school and it would be great to get these kids there for the experience,” Henriksen said. “All the hard work we’ve put in -- it would be nice to reward them. Not just the hard work this season, but for the last three seasons.”

Related Topics: BASKETBALL
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