From the time junior point guard Tanner Carlson arrived at Knox as a sophomore, men’s basketball head coach Rob Purlee knew he had a guard that could rank among the top in the Midwest Conference.
After Carlson’s stellar junior season, everyone else is starting to realize it as well.
Over the weekend, Carlson was voted to the All-Midwest Conference Honorable Mention Team—the only member of the Prairie Fire to earn the distinction.
“Tanner is the closest thing we have to someone who sees the game like a coach does,” Purlee said about Carlson. “He has it.”
In a season where seemingly so little went right for the Prairie Fire, Carlson was a constant bright light for the 2-21 (1-17 MWC) Prairie Fire. He averaged 12 points per game, good for second on the team, and led the team with nearly five assists per game. Carlson played an average of 33.3 minutes per game this season, which ranked seventh in the Midwest Conference.
However, his brightest moments came during the road trip to Lawrence University and Beloit College on Jan. 21 and 22. Against second-place Lawrence, Carlson recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists in a heartbreaking 89-86 double overtime loss. Carlson hit a three pointer in the final seconds of regulation to send the game into overtme.
Carlson’s triple-double was the only one in the conference this season and one of only twelve nationally.
The next night against the Buccaneers, Carlson followed up with a career-high 28 points in a 75-67 loss. He was named Midwest Conference Player of the Week, the first Knox men’s basketball player to earn the award in three years.
“To me, the award brought a small light to the season,” Carlson said, “but it does not replace the fact that we know we were a better team this year than our record showed. I was honored that the Midwest Conference coaches placed me in this category, but I know I still have a lot of work to do before next season.”
Next year, Carlson expects bigger things from his team.
“I have high expectations for our team next year,” Carlson said. “We return a solid core of our guys and have young guys who are working hard to develop and become more able to contribute at the collegiate level.
“My goal for our team next year is to make the conference tournament, and I think we definitely have the talent returning to do that if we really commit to the weight room and workouts in the spring and summer.”
Carlson was joined on the honorable mention team by Craig Bals of Illinois College, Paul Grosshuesch of Carroll University and Tyler Crisman and Jon Mays of Lawrence University. Ripon senior Scott Gillespie was named player of the year, and Grinnell’s David Arseneault was voted coach of the year.