FARGO — Khamani Steckler just sort of showed up on Fargo South’s doorstep this offseason. And the 6-foot-8 senior center is making an immediate impact on the court.
Steckler moved to Fargo and transferred to South for his final high school season after growing up in Grand Forks and playing for Grand Forks Red River through his junior year. Through eight games with the Bruins, Steckler has nearly averaged a double-double with 16.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
“We played Red River in the EDC tournament last year and he hardly played,” Fargo South coach Mike Hendrickson said. “I think he was such a nice quiet kid that he wasn’t going to demand time or stick up for himself. So now with us, I’ve just seen that role kind of blossom. People said he couldn’t go left, but he’s been going left and scoring a lot of points with his left hand for us lately.
His arrival gave the Bruins an interior presence they otherwise would not have had. No other player on their roster is taller than 6-4. He can grab rebounds, defend the post and score inside. He’s got a number of post moves and an ability to pass out of the post and create shots for his teammates.
The 5-4 Bruins, who play host to Fargo North at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, have already surpassed their win total from last season when they were 4-20.
“Take him away from our team and where are we at?” Hendrickson said. “He’s been a big difference in what we’ve done. Now we’ve got a one-two punch with him and Kam Arechigo. With that big body, it’s really nice. He just fills up a gap.”
Steckler says he fit in with his new team almost immediately. He joined in on their team Zoom meetings last summer and was at the first team training sessions they had. Arechigo was the first person to reach out to Steckler when he let them know he’d be moving to South. The pair have become friends. And Steckler and Enock Sibomana both work together at Walmart, so they’ve built a relationship off the court, as well.
“I didn’t know any of these guys before,” Steckler said. “It was kind of weird because it’s a new team. I was pretty nervous at first, but they’re all pretty cool people. It was easy to get to know them and to be myself around them and play my game.”
That ability to be himself has boosted his confidence. He’s playing more aggressively, taking more shots and putting more of the load on himself. In his most recent game, Steckler took over in the second half of a tight game, making huge plays down the stretch of a 1-point loss to Fargo Davies. He scored 24 of his game-high 29 points in the second half.
“I like that coach Hendrickson trusts me with the ball — trusts me to shoot the ball,” Steckler said. “I feel more comfortable with the ball and more confident to shoot. At Red River, I wasn’t that confident to shoot the ball so I wouldn’t ever do it. But here, I’ll shoot it.”
Steckler has been working with Bruins C-squad coach Ken Terry, getting some extra one-on-one instruction and helping him develop his offensive game. Steckler says he was weak with his left hand before and he really only had one or two post moves. But now, he’s got an arsenal of four or five different moves he can go to and he is a lot stronger finishing on the left side.
“It’s been great working out with coach Terry,” Steckler said. “I didn’t get that kind of one-on-one attention at Red River. There’s more opportunities to play basketball here. I can go work out at Power Academy and I like that, too.”
Terry was one of the first people Steckler’s mom talked to when she said they might be moving to Fargo. Hendrickson says last season when South played at Red River, Steckler’s mom approached the C-squad coach and said they might be moving down to Fargo and wondered what would happen if they did.
“We’re getting onto the bus on the way home and Ken Terry, who is our C-squad coach came to me and said, ‘The big kid’s mom talked to me about them maybe moving to Fargo. What do you think?’ ” Hendrickson said. “I said that would be pretty neat, but let’s not get into telling them, ‘Hey you should come here,’ at all.”
Once Hendrickson found out Steckler planned to move to Fargo and join the Bruins, he said the first call he made was to Red River’s coaches and the second was to the FSH administration to make sure they did everything the right way.
“When he first showed up, I called the coaches and said, ‘Hey, I’m just letting you know that we didn’t recruit him. It wasn’t that type of thing at all,’ ” Hendrickson said. “And they just said they weren’t mad or upset or anything. I’m sure they would still like to have him there. But even at the game they played here, they were telling me he’s a good kid.”