LUVERNE, Minn. (WCCO) — Luverne, Minnesota is in the heart of high school basketball country, but since hockey has moved its way down that way they’ve taken a liking to the game — especially one standout who has a Division I future.

High school hockey is emerging in southern Minnesota, and things are especially exciting at Luverne High School. This year’s team is talented, but young.

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“It’s been a roller coaster ride so far,” Luverne hockey coach Kullen Schroht said. “We’re kind of in the grind right now. Some days are tougher than others.”

At the heart of all the excitement is a young, talented sophomore — Jaxon Nelson. He became a hockey player in basketball country because his dad did not have that opportunity.

“He just wanted me to play because when he was a kid he never really got to play,” Nelson said. “He just wanted me to try it out when I was, like, 3 years old.”

He was there as an 8th grader, when Luverne made the state tournament, and has been transforming the town into a hockey hot bed ever since.

“It’s great, I mean the community is behind us now and we just keep pulling forward and start winning the big games, get back to the state tournament a couple more times” Nelson said.

As an offensive juggernaut, Nelson is a big reason the team and town have arrived.

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“Jaxon is a wonderful person and a wonderful player. His biggest asset is the fact that he’s so humble,” Schroht said. “You wouldn’t know his statistics. He doesn’t boast them. The only thing that stands out when he walks in is his size.”

His 6-foot 4-inch frame is no longer unusual in hockey, but certainly interesting.

“He and his linemate — we kind of call them the dynamic duo,” Schroht said. “They’re pretty special. They’ve been together for three years now. … It’s fun to watch.”

He’s already made a hockey commitment to play for the Gophers — the first from that part of the state to have that opportunity.

“It’s just kind of a tradition for the Minnesota kid to go to the big school in Minneapolis,” Nelson said.

But what he really wants this season is to get back to St. Paul and take a shot at a state title. But most of all, he’s just here to have some fun.

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“It’s a lot of fun. I love it,” Nelson said. “The feeling of the community behind you — just the best.”

Mike Max