A dream come true
In his first week practice for Hamline University, Park 2009 graduate Andy Voigt received a rude welcome to college basketball.
Voigt, a 6' 5" freshman power forward, had his nose broken.
"Obviously, the biggest difference between high school and college basketball is the physicality of it -- and it kind of hit me right in the face," Voigt said, adding he has never been injured playing basketball before. "I guess I kind of got off on the wrong foot that first week."
However, although relegated to playing with a plastic mask, Voigt quickly recovered from the injury and, with hustle and hard work, is already earning playing time for the Pipers.
"We're really excited to have him," said Hamline third-year head coach Nelson Whitmore. "We're excited about how he grows the next couple of years. That's not to say he's not going to be outstanding right away, it's just that his potential is unlimited. He has that work ethic that you just can't teach. His limits are boundless."
Whitmore, who said Voigt was one of the school's top recruits, said he sees All-Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) or even All-American potential in the former Wolfpack player.
"He is a tremendous big guy, who we still think he has a lot of room to grow -- just changing his body and adding muscle, he's done a tremendous job of that already. He's a big, strong kid, who plays hard all the time. We love his toughness. He can handle and sees the floor well and has good feet."
In his senior year at Park, Voigt averaged a team-best 16 points and eight rebounds a game for the Wolfpack. He was a Suburban East Conference All-Conference selection as a senior, was also named to the academic all-state team and was a member of the National Honor Society.
Currently, Voigt, 18, is averaging 3.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 6.7 minutes per game for Hamline.
At Hamline, Voigt is stuck in a bit of a logjam in the Pipers frontcourt, behind two of the best big men in Div. III basketball. Hamline junior center Carl Hipp leads the team in scoring (21.3 points per game), rebounding (13.0 per game) and blocks (3.0 per game). Alongside the 6'8" Hipp is 6'7" senior forward Ray Brown, who averages 18 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Although he isn't yet on top of the pecking order, his coach said Voigt is playing "tremendously."
"Andy's kind of log-jammed in what I think is the best four-five combination in the country and two of the best players at their positions in the country," Whitmore said. "But, Andy still will see a lot of time as the year goes on. We're excited about him and think by the time he's a junior he'll develop into an All-MIAC type of player."
Playing against Hipp was one of the reasons Voigt picked Hamline.
"Going against him every day is tough," Voigt said. "It's probably good for me, but, it's not exactly fun. It's kind of nice to go against one of the best every day. Playing alongside him I always thought would be really good. He makes life easier for everybody else on the team. It's something I looked at when I was coming here."
Whitmore said having a number of talented bigs is a good problem to have.
"Going against Carl Hipp and Ray in practice every day is only going to make Andy that much better," Whitmore said. "In games, he's been great so far. We may just need to find a way to get all three of them in the game at the same time. It's just a matter of working that all out. He just does too many things for us not to have him on the floor."
After high school Voigt basically had his pick to go to any MIAC school he wanted to. Hamline stood out for Voigt, because he said he felt "at home" when he visited the school.
"First off, the coaching staff -- I just absolutely love these guys here," he said. "Visiting this school I always felt comfortable here and really enjoyed it."
Voigt lives on the Hamline campus with fellow freshman teammate Jordan Schmidt. He is currently majoring in journalism.
He said he hopes to be starting next season.
"The goal here is to win a national championship," Voigt said. "Personally, I want to do whatever I can do to help the team, whether it's by working hard in practice every day or getting some minutes on the court in games."
Although, as a first-year player, Voigt is currently in the long shadow of veterans Hipp and Brown, at Hamline, he has been able to step away from the comparisons to his older sister Jackie Voigt -- one of the top athletes in Park history.
Jackie, currently a sophomore for the University of Minnesota women's basketball team, was the first athlete in Park history to be named All-State in three different sports and was the St. Paul Pioneer Press female athlete of the year in 2008 -- her senior year.
"She was a very big deal around school and you always heard about her," Andy said. "Now that I'm here on my own, not everyone here knows about her. It's kind of nice to be able to make my own identity here."
Jackie Voigt, a 6' 1" forward who has been a starter for the Gophers since day one, is averaging 10.9 points and 4.9 rebounds this season in 31.9 minutes per game -- which is highest on the team.
However, Andy said he's never really felt like he was ever in his sister's shadow and that it's very special to him that they are both playing college basketball in Minnesota.
"It's pretty cool knowing we're kind of going through the same kind of things," Voigt said. "It's different levels and different situations, but there's a lot of similarities.
That was always the goal when we were playing as kids -- to get to that next level, whether it was playing varsity, which we both achieved, or playing in college -- it's always been a dream."