STELLAR HOOPS CAREER ENDS FOR HENNEN
On the Steve and Melissa Hennen country farm outside of Ghent, Morgan Hennen began honing her basketball skills.
“We have a basketball pole attached to the cement and connected to the garage,” said Molly, who averaged 13 points per game this season for Minneota’s top-ranked team in Class A. “I played one-on-one with all my sisters. I played with Abby the most, which resulted in a lot of fighting because we were so competitive.”
That competitive fire has led to the Vikings having gone 110-14 in games in the four years Molly had been on the varsity; the last three years as a starter.
Her career came to an unexpected crashing halt, though, when the Minnesota State High School League cancelled the state tournament after the quarterfinal games due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The stoppage denied Morgan and her teammates a chance to win back-to-back state titles.
The entire Hennen family is basketball driven. Steve played basketball, football and baseball at Minneota. Melissa (Fier) was a basketball, volleyball and softball player for the Vikings.
All six siblings have been multi-sport athletes; Samantha (Hammer), 27; Kelsey (Buysse), 26; Molly, 24; Kyle, 21; Morgan, a senior forward; and Abby, a junior guard.
In all, the Hennen siblings have participated in 24 state tournaments in front of their parents. Last year, the StarTribune wrote a feature story on the family’s state trips. This year, WCCO-TV reporter John Lauritsen captured the Hennens’ accomplishments.
Abby has been a two-year starter for the Vikings and led the team in scoring this season at 18 points-per-game. Both Morgan and Abby were named to the Class A All-State team this year.
“My brother would play against Abby and me, and he would still beat us,” Morgan admitted. “Sometimes the whole family gets together for vacation and we end up in a super competitive game of volleyball or basketball. Sometimes it’s boys versus girls.”
Morgan first began playing hoops when she was three or four years old with her siblings.
“I started playing competitively in fourth grade, and my dad coached me,” Morgan recalled. “He claims that he was my best coach.”
Morgan scored 1,274 points and collected 453 rebounds, 255 assists and 228 steals over her career.
Her career-high came against Dawson-Boyd this season when she sank 25 points.
“Morgan is a great all-around player for us,” said Minneota Coach Chad Johnston. “Despite her height (5-foot-8), we play her as a power forward.
“She has the ability to play physical inside, but also shines around the perimeter as a player who can shoot the three, dribble penetrate and finish at the rim.”
Morgan was the lone senior on this year’s team.
“It is definitely different, she said. “I tried to offer advice to my teammates during games or practices, but I tried to lead more by example. Hopefully some of the younger girls picked up on some things, which can help them be successful in the future.”
Teammates have voted Morgan a team captain for three straight years.
“For me, basketball was always more than a sport. It was learning that in order to succeed, you need to work hard every day and you needed to push yourself and others around you,” she said. “Through basketball, J taught us there are failures and challenges, and it’s how you use those moments and what you do with them that defines who you are. J was always using basketball as a platform to teach us life skills and lessons.”
"She represented our team well for four years," said Johnston. "She is a vocal leader and leads well by example. She takes it upon herself to be someone the girls can look up to when things aren't going well."
Morgan credits Shane Hennen, a Minneota alumni who runs his own academy, in fine-tuning her game this season.
“I learned about three finishing moves from Shane, and I feel like that area of my game improved the most,” she said. “I feel like I improved on seeing the floor better as well.”
When Morgan was asked what she enjoys most about basketball, she was unable to come up with one specific thing.
"I enjoy playing with my sister and the physicality of the game," she said. "I also love the supporting community that Minneota has. I enjoy my coaches, teammates, and meeting others from different towns."
One thing Morgan will miss besides playing for Minneota with her teammates, is the camaraderie she shared with the coaching staff.
"All of my coaches have helped me turn into the player that I am today," she said. "My favorite part about them is that we can joke around and have some fun, but at the same time know when it is time to focus and get things done."
Getting things done was definitely what the Vikings did the past two years in winning back-to-back state titles.
"Coach J has always believed in us, which in result, makes us believe in ourselves," Morgan relayed. "I have so much respect for all the coaches, and I will always be thankful for the seasons that I had."
Johnston has the same admiration for his veteran player.
"Morgan has been a pleasure to coach over the years," he said. "She has worked hard and has been a great leader for our team. When she makes a mistake, she doesn't dwell on it. She moves on and works hard to make up for it."'
Although she wasn't able to win a second state title this year, she will always be known as a champion.