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Record-setting year sees Hulke at his best

File photo by Travis Rosenau Nicollet’s Riley Hulke looks to dribble past Sleepy Eye’s Logan Netzke during a home game earlier this season at Nicollet High School.

NICOLLET — Senior guard Riley Hulke has helped the Nicollet boys’ basketball team improve more and more each season over the past four years.

Hulke’s freshman year saw the Raiders finish 8-19 overall. The Raiders currently have a 14-3 overall record and are unbeaten in the Valley Conference at 8-0.

During his senior campaign, Hulke has reached milestone after milestone.

He first set the Nicollet High School career scoring record earlier this season by passing Emily Skrien’s 1,655 points. Most recently, he passed St. Clair graduate Brandon Stori’s Valley Conference boys’ career scoring mark of 1,985 points this past Saturday in a road win over Le Sueur-Henderson.

In that win on Saturday, Hulke also scored his 2,000th career point.

“I haven’t really reflected on it yet … but when it happened, just a bunch of hours in the gym finally started to pay off,” Hulke said of his 2,000th point. “When I could have been doing other stuff, I was in the gym, all that stuff. But it’s really not an individual accomplishment, it’s my teammates. Without them, none of this would have been possible.”

According to the Minnesota State High School League, Hulke is also top five in the state for boys in career made 3-pointers with 405. In addition to being one of the top shooters in the area over the years, Hulke has watched his game evolve into more of an all-around style.

“My freshman, even my sophomore year I could only shoot,” Hulke said. “I was scared to dribble, I wasn’t much of a defender. If teams put a guy on me, box-and-one on me, I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t get out of it because I wasn’t strong enough. But then I had a pretty good growth spurt, I started to get faster, stronger, I started to become a defender. And my teammates got better, too, so even when they’d box-and-one me, they couldn’t because my teammates would just score every time, so they had to come out of that.”

Hulke also has 858 career assists and 386 career steals, both school records.

Hulke attributed most of his success over the years to the support that he’s gotten.

“I can be in the gym as much as I want, but I’m never in the gym alone,” Hulke said. “My dad’s there, my mom’s there, my grandpa’s there. AAU-wise, I’m always getting rides, my teammates are always there encouraging me. I’m never ever by myself shooting alone, there’s always somebody with me who wants to help me get better. And that’s got to be the biggest thing that’s helped me throughout the years.”

From starting one game on varsity as an eighth-grader to becoming one of the top players the Nicollet basketball program has ever seen, Hulke’s confidence has grown a lot since his freshman year and his goals have become bigger.

“At that point [freshman season] it was kind of a dream, like, ‘Man, it would be cool to get 1,000 points,'” Hulke said. “I was just trying to win five games my freshman year or something like that. But as I started getting older, I saw people around me, getting behind me, I’m like, ‘I can do this, I can get 2,000 points, we can make it to the state tournament.’ As we get older and people started buying in, it really set in that it’s not a dream anymore, it’s kind of reality.”

Hulke is currently averaging 24 points per game, 9 assists per game, 4 rebounds per game and 4 steals per game.

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