Block party

Wendinger’s record-setting defense leading Sleepy Eye

File photo by Travis Rosenau Sleepy Eye’s Landon Wendinger sends a shot away during a nonconference boys basketball game at Sleepy Eye High School on Feb. 19.

SLEEPY EYE — Even when he’s not blocking a shot, Landon Wendinger is making opposing players twist, turn and contort themselves in efforts to avoid rejection on the court.

But there’s still pretty good odds that those opposing players will in fact be seeing their shot knocked out of the air when challenging the 6-8 Sleepy Eye center.

During a dominant defensive campaign this season, Wendinger swatted his way to the Sleepy Eye High School boys basketball single-season blocks record with 130 blocked shots, an average of 5.4 blocks per game.

And Sleepy Eye’s prior single-season record holder for blocks?


Wendinger set the single-season mark last year with 103 blocks and got to 130 this season after six blocks in a home win over Renville County West this past Monday.

“I just think it’s pretty cool,” Wendinger said. “That’s my favorite part of my game is the shot blocking. So it’s just really awesome to have that record, it’s cool.”

Don’t be fooled by his height, though. Wendinger does typically have a height advantage over players he guards, but he’s been much more than just a tall guy in the paint and has remained coordinated and smart enough to avoid silly or careless fouls on defense.

Wendinger hasn’t fouled out once this season, averaging just around two fouls per game.

Wendinger said the reason for that is being aware of the situation.

“I would just say you’ve got to kind of know the situation,” he said. “If I’m at a point where I have zero fouls in the first half, then I’m going to play a little more aggressive [compared] to if I pick up two fouls, then I’ll tone it back down again. It’s just about finding the balance of not being over aggressive but being aggressive enough to block the shots.”

Sleepy Eye has made improvements over the last few years. The Indians went from winning six games during Wendinger’s 2021-22 freshman season to winning eight games last season.

As of Thursday morning, Sleepy Eye is now posting a 16-8 record.

An overall improvement in the team offensively has been key, with players finding their shot and knowing when to take it.

It’s the team’s defense, however, that has been the bread and butter in the turnaround.

“We just play really good as a team when it comes to defense,” Wendinger said. “We take pride in that, that’s the better side of our game is our defense. That’s what wins us most of our games. With me in the middle, then everyone else is spaced out, we work together as a team communicating on the outside and the inside. It just helps our game a lot playing defense really well.”

Wendinger is happy to share credit with his team defensively, and Sleepy Eye head coach Shane Heiderscheidt said that’s what he’s looking for from his players.

“[Landon’s] just a humble kid,” coach Heiderscheidt said. “He doesn’t ever want to talk about himself, and that’s kind of our whole team. Our motto was we’re going to win as a team and lose as a team this year. And kind of with the last couple years with where we started — it was two [wins], then it was eight. Now we’re double.”

In addition to growing vertically since last season, Wendinger has put on 20 pounds also and now weighs in at 200 pounds.

Wendinger isn’t sure where he got his height from as he said his dad is around 6-1 and his mom is around 5-8, but he’s been happy to add muscle to his frame and utilize his height.

Coach Heiderscheidt said Wendinger wants to play at basketball in college and has put in a lot of work since last season to continue to improve.

“What he doesn’t tell you is he worked on his game religiously,” coach Heiderscheidt said. “His footwork and his post moves in the paint — the game comes second nature. We kind of get after it. I always tell the kids that our practices are going to be a lot harder than most of the games. Because I’ll go against Landon and I’m going to go beat him up because I want him to get ready for the next level because that’s one of his goals is to play college basketball.”

Wendinger is also currently at 240 career blocks, second behind Ryan Meyer’s career mark of 273, which Meyer finished with during the 1992-93 season.

Wendinger has also grabbed more than his share of rebounds as he’s currently sitting at 320 rebounds this season and 571 for his career. The 320 rebounds is second behind the school’s single-season rebounds record of 340, also set by Meyer during the 1992-93 season.


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