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Dufault is Mr. Basketball and North Dakota Class B boys senior athlete of the year

FARGO - Austin Dufault's willingness to succeed in the game of basketball can be traced to his fifth-grade year when Rich Dufault took over as the head boys basketball coach at Killdeer High School.

Eleven-year-old Austin never strayed far from the team and took the Cowboys' loss to Dickinson Trinity in the 2001 Region 7 championship game as hard as the players.

That was when Rich Dufault knew his son's love of basketball could lead to something special.

"He always had that innate ability to understand the game at a young age," Rich Dufault said. "... "He was a sponge, he took everything in. From that point on, he was the type of kid who would, first of all, make himself better and because of that, make his team better."

Seven years later, Austin Dufault wrapped up a high school basketball career on par with some of North Dakota's greatest. On Saturday night, he sealed his status as North Dakota's best boys basketball player of the 2007-08 season by winning two of the sport's most coveted individual awards.

Dufault was the media and coaches' choice as the top boys basketball player in the state as he earned the Mr. Basketball award and was named Class B senior athlete of the year following the Class B state championship game at the Fargodome.

"It's just an honor to be down here and be nominated for it," Dufault said following the award ceremony. "Winning it is just extra."

Dufault earned 13 of 17 first-place votes in the Mr. Basketball voting and had 74 voting points. Members of the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association vote on the award, given annually to the state's top senior player. A player must exemplify basketball ability and sportsmanship to be a finalist. Other criteria may include community involvement and scholastic achievement.

The other Mr. Basketball finalists were Jordan Allard of Fargo South, Jamie Mauch of Hankinson, Jordan May of Fargo North and Justin Shipman of Watford City. May received 19 points, Allard 18, and Shipman and Mauch 11 apiece.

The senior athlete of the year is an award given by the North Dakota High School Coaches Association to one of eight regional finalists. Dufault won the District 14 and Region 7 athlete of the year awards.

"You just think about all the stuff you did," Dufault said. "All the times you didn't feel like working out and did. It all pays off."

The 6-foot-8 forward, who has already signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Colorado next season, is the first Class B player to win the award since Hunter Berg in 1995. He's also the first Region 7 player to win the award.

"It's kind of hard to think back that far, that's how long it's been," Dufault said. "There's a lot of Class B kids who've been deserving of this."

Dufault averaged 26 points, 12 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.5 steals and 2.5 blocks a game this season after being the only returning Class B first-team all-state player.

During his career, Dufault scored 1,457 points, including a school-record 571 points this season while helping his team to a 14-8 record and second place in the District 14 tournament. He had a school-record 17 double-doubles this year and scored a season-high 42 points in a win over Beach. Dufault also pulled down a school-record 543 career rebounds in his career.

Dufault scored 37 points in his final high school game, a 62-57 overtime loss to eventual Region 7 champion Mott-Regent in the tournament quarterfinals.

He was a three-time all-region and all-district selection and helped Killdeer advance to five consecutive region tournaments.

Off the court, Dufault maintained a 3.7 grade-point average and has been on the 'A' honor roll each quarter since he was a freshman.

In addition to Saturday's awards, Dufault was a McDonald's All-American team nominee and is a finalist for the North Dakota Gatorade player of the year award.

Dustin Monke

Monke came to The Dickinson Press in July 2006 as the newspaper's sports editor and was hired as its managing editor in March 2013. During his tenure at The Press, Monke has won multiple awards for sports reporting, feature reporting, column writing, page design and photography. He was a key part of The Press winning the North Dakota Newspaper Association's General Excellence and Sweepstakes awards in 2009 and 2012, and oversaw The Press' Sweepstakes and General Excellence wins in 2014, as well as its national first-place honors for Community Leadership in the Inland Daily Press Association and contributed to the first-place Inland award for Investigative Reporting. As the newspaper's editor, he writes an occasional Sunday column, is a member of The Press' Editorial Board, contributes feature stories and breaking news, designs pages, and oversees the day-to-day operations of the newsroom and editorial staff. In his free time, he enjoys watching sports and action movies, exercises whenever his schedule allows, and spends every minute he can with his wife and son.

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