Leader. Passion. Quiet giant.
Apt descriptions of three former and current Little Falls Flyers boys' basketball players from a woman who would know - Mom.
Will, Ronnie and Dan Kornbaum are three very different individuals. Along with being brothers, they share two very strong bonds: A love for basketball and a love for the purple and white.
"Will is a typical first child," said Jenni Kornbaum, who played basketball at South Dakota State University. "He's an excellent leader. He tells his brothers what to do and his teammates when he played."
Ronnie Kornbaum (24) and younger brother Dan Kornbaum teamed up to help the Little Falls Flyers back into the Class 3A state boys' basketball tournament after defeating St. Cloud Apollo in the Section 8-3A championship game Thursday. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
The 6-foot-3 guard graduated a year before the Flyers current streak of Class 3A state tournament trips. The past two seasons the oldest Kornbaum has played for the Central Lakes College Raiders. Last year he helped them to the NJCAA national tournament. This year the Raiders advanced to the Region 13 tourney.
Will averaged 5.1 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.
"His younger brothers look up to him and they respect his love for the game and the things he says," said Jenni Kornbaum. "They'll listen to him before they listen to Mom or Dad."
Will was sitting, actually standing, next to his mother during the Flyers' 63-62 Section 8-3A victory over top-seeded St. Cloud Apollo Thursday at St. Cloud State University.
It's the second straight year the Flyers upset Apollo to advance to the state tournament. Both times Dan Kornbaum has made the game-winning basket.
Last year Dan used a "Dunk" at the buzzer to send the Flyers to the tournament.
"First of all it wasn't a dunk," Will said. "It was a tip.
"But it was just pandemonium. It was putting the nail in the coffin. I knew they were going to do it once they got the ball with two minutes left and held it for that long. I knew it had to happen."
Thursday, Dan used a layup to send the Flyers to Williams Arena.
"Danny is very quite and you never know what he's thinking," Jenni Kornbaum said. "I can tell, though."
The junior center said the game felt like last year's but only better because he had a better game.
"I knew that at the end I was getting the ball and just scoring," he said. "So I was feeling it. I knew we could do it. We had confidence."
Dan leads the Flyers with 21.4 points and 9.0 rebounds a game. Throw in 75 blocked shots and he's been a force on both ends of the floor.
"That's twice he's gotten the game-winner, but I don't mind," said Ronnie. "No one expected him to do what he's done this year. He grew a little bit and worked on his game. He became more of an inside player like we needed.
"That last play where he just put it up that was huge. It's always nice to get an assist at the end, especially if it's to your brother."
Ronnie is the emotional senior leader of the Flyers. He backs it up with 11.5 points and 6.4 rebounds a game.
"Ronnie is my passionate player," said Jenni Kornbaum. "He wears his heart on his sleeve. Ronnie hasn't thought about anything but basketball since last Thursday."
The day before the section final, Will practiced with the team. When the three brothers got home they played more basketball.
"They were in the driveway and I had to break up a fight today," said Jenni Kornbaum.
Basketball is ingrained in the Kornbaum DNA. Their grandfather, Ron Johnson, played for the University of Minnesota. Their cousin, Robbie Hummel, is a 6-8 forward for the Purdue Boilermakers, who last year was named first-team All-Big Ten as a freshman.
"When I first got here everyone would ask me, 'Do you like it here, do you plan on staying,'" said Flyers head coach Kevin Jordan. "I would always answer, 'I'm not going anywhere until the Kornbaums graduate.'"
Jordan is established in the community now. Luckily for him, there's two more Kornbaums on the way.
jeremy millsop, sports writer, may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5856.
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