PRAIRIE DU SAC — Naomi Breunig was ready for Wednesday.
After watching three older siblings go on to play college basketball, the senior at Sauk Prairie High School was prepared when the time came for her to sign her letter of intent to play basketball at Winona State University in Minnesota.
“It’s definitely a weight off your shoulders finally figuring that all out,” Breunig said after Wednesday’s ceremony at Sauk Prairie High School. “I love the (Winona) coaches, they’re super welcoming. The team was welcoming, it’s a beautiful campus and it’s the perfect distance from home, so everything was kind of perfect.
“My whole family, all my older siblings have played college basketball, so it’s kind of just in our blood I guess. It’s always what I wanted to do.”
She’ll get her chance to play starting in 2021-22. Winona State, an NCAA Division II program, went 17-11 last season, including 12-10 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, under head coach Scott Ballard.
Breunig’s new school will be about two hours northwest of Prairie du Sac, where she is preparing for her fourth year as a varsity contributor. The 5-foot-10 wing began to talk with Winona State after a 2019-20 season in which she averaged 17 points per game and earned first-team All-Badger North Conference honors.
“I talked to them last spring, and then we kind of chatted all through summer,” said Breunig, who played AAU basketball for Wisconsin Elite and noted the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t throw off her recruitment too much. “I did a few visits over the summer. I was lucky to be able to go there.”
When Breunig eventually steps on Winona’s campus, the Warriors will be getting a versatile, athletic wing who has filled a number of roles with the Eagles. She scored 8.9 points per game as a freshmen before leading the Eagles with 10.9 points per game as a sophomore..
“They think I’m pretty versatile and I think they can work with that,” Breunig said of what the coaches have told her about her role going forward. “They like how I can play a lot of positions, guard a lot of positions. I’m not really sure what position I’ll play, but they know I can play them all.”
That versatility developed over Breunig’s three-year career. Stepping into a contributing role immediately in 2017-18 helped her learn what she needed to improve upon throughout her high school career.
“I think confidence and strength,” Breunig, who also plays tennis and soccer at Sauk Prairie, said of how she’s improved since her freshman year. “Just being stronger. I know I’ll have to take that up even more once I get there next year, but I think I’ve definitely improved with that.”
She’s had her elder siblings to lean on throughout the process. Three Breunigs have already gone on to play college basketball, starting with 2014 Sauk Prairie graduates Simon Breunig and Georgia Breunig playing at Madison Edgewood and Northern Illinois, respectively. Lydia Breunig is coming off a junior season in which she averaged 2.4 points and 11.7 minutes per game at Loras College.
“Always attending their events and long car rides, but it was nice and they were really helpful in the process,” Breunig said of sharing basketball with her siblings. “I’m lucky to be able to have them.”
She’ll look to continue adding to her game this winter for a Sauk Prairie team that is coming off a 13-11 season. The Eagles will be playing for interim coach Aaron Andres after Amber Fiene resigned in July for personal reasons connected to the pandemic.
“I think I’ll just be a lot more relaxed,” Breunig said of what she hopes to get out of her senior year. “I was always stressed about, ‘Am I playing well? Are they watching?’ Now I think I’ll just be able to have fun and enjoy it with my teammates.”
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