Wisconsin’s finest

IRON MOUNTAIN – Three names synonymous with area Wisconsin high school basketball will be honored later this year.

Playing great Anna DeForge of Niagara along with Florence coaches Bob Wolfe and Dan Zoeller will be inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The ceremony is scheduled for Saturday, Sept 27, at Wilderness Resort in Wisconsin Dells.

DeForge is among six inductees in the “girl players” class. Wolfe and Zoeller are among 12 “high school coaches.”

For ticket information, contact Joan Petitgoue at tristate@jdpjmp or 608-744-2585; 608-778-2524.

Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association provided background on DeForge, Wolfe and Zoeller:

Anna L. DeForge

Niagara High School-University of Nebraska

Anna DeForge was born in Iron Mountain, Michigan, and grew up across the Menominee River in Niagara, Wisconsin, a small paper mill community.

She is the daughter of Roger and Rosemary DeForge, and Anna was born into an athletic family. Her older sisters, Stacey and Kelly, were both athletes who served as an inspiration and role model for their younger sister who usually served as manager of their teams and attended their games and practices.

Anna loved all sports but it was basketball that was her favorite by far. She became the proverbial “gym rat” as she could always be found shooting baskets and playing games whenever she had a bit of free time.

In high school, Anna participated in volleyball and basketball.

From tournament time as a freshman, Anna helped lead her volleyball team as it compiled a record of 104-6-3 through her senior year. She was a key player as Niagara won the Division 4 state championship her sophomore year and finished as runner-up both her junior and senior years. She earned all-state recognition as a junior and senior and gained interest from college recruiters for her volleyball skills.

As talented as Anna was in volleyball, it was in basketball where she really excelled. She averaged 19.1 points per game as a freshman and would later finish her high school career having averaged 25.8 points per game while having scored in double-figures in every high school games she ever played in a total of 101 games.

She led her team to the sectional tournament as a sophomore and to the state tournament as a junior and a senior where her team took runner-up honors while going a combined 49-5 both years.

Anna led Division 4 state tournament players in both scoring and rebounding while being named to the all-state tournament team both years.

She received All-State recognition as a junior and as a senior in 1994 she earned first team-All State recognition by the Associated Press, the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association and the Milwaukee Journal. She also was selected WBCA Miss Basketball, USA TODAYS’s Wisconsin Player of the Year and was the only high school recipient of the Milwaukee Athletic Club’s Founder’s Award.

She ended her high school career with a then state female career scoring record of 2,601 points which is still second in state history.

Anna also excelled in the classroom, being an honor student and being a member of the National Honor Society.

Because of her basketball prowess, Anna received scholarship interest from over 100 schools and accepted a full basketball scholarship from the University of Nebraska.

She moved into the starting lineup early in her freshman year and went onto become one of the best players in Nebraska history.

She led the Huskers to the NCAA tournament and also to the WNIT during her Nebraska career and currently ranks seventh in total points, sixth in rebounds, seventh is assists and sixth in steals while averaging 15.9 points per game for her college career.

She earned all-conference first-team honors in both 1996-97 and 1997-98 while receiving All-American honorable mention recognition both years. Anna also graduated with a bachelor’s degree while earning honorable mention academic All-Big 12 honors both her junior and senior year.

Her success in basketball also resulted in her being named to one of five spots on Nebraska’s All-Century Team and Bob Devaney Sports Center Team.

After graduating, Anna joined the Detroit Shock in the WNBA and would go on to play with Phoenix, Indiana, Minnesota, and again with Detroit. She twice made the WNBA all-star team, twice earned WNBA Player of the Week honors and finished her WNBA career having scored 2,413 points and once having led the league in three-point field goals and minutes played.

Anna also went on to have a very successful career playing in Europe winning three championships in Poland while also playing with teams in Spain, Turkey and Czech Republic.

She also played two seasons with the Montenegro National Team. She earned honors as the Eurobasket.com All-Polish Player of the Year and also was selected to play in both the Euroleague All-Star Game and the Polish All-Star Game in 2006.

Most recently she played in Turkey averaging 16.1 points per game during the 2014 season.

In the “off season,” Anna splits time between Niagara and Phoenix, Ariz.

Bob Wolfe

Florence High School

Bob is a 1966 graduate of Oconto Falls High School. He was limited athletically as a player, but was always intrigued by the competitiveness of sports. He hoped to become a coach someday.

He graduated from UW-Oshkosh in January of 1971 with a bachelor of science degree in education. He taught 2 1/2 years at Notre Dame of DePere Middle School, before being hired at Florence County School District in 1973.

He became the jayvee basketball coach under Stan Jesky in 1974. He coached 7 years of JV ball, before becoming the head coach in 1981. He went on to coach 20 years of varsity ball, compiling a record 336 wins and 106 losses.

He won six Northern Lakes Conference titles, five regional titles, two sectional titles, and the Class “C” state championship in 1989 with a perfect 27-0 record.

He also coached jayvee football for 26 years, compiling a record of 143 wins and 36 losses and 4 ties.

He was lucky to have the honor of being on a coaching staff that included 2014 inductee Dan Zoeller and Hall of Fame football coach David LaPoint, and also a special friend, Robert Constantini (volunteer coach).

He often refers to this period of time as the “Golden Era” of Florence athletics. They had gifted athletes, great parents, community support, outstanding faculty members and a supportive administration.

“Bobcat” pride extended through all the school programs. He had solid assistant coaches throughout his career and great support from his wife, Dawn, who helped him in so many ways. She encouraged him to apply for the varsity job in the beginning and supported him through the ups and downs of the seasons. She also saw that the uniforms were clean and ready each game, including the “State” final.

Bob’s coaching philosophy centered around defense and rebounding. He used multiple defenses to keep teams out of balance limiting teams to one shot possessions. Offensively, he stressed getting the best shot possible out of each possession, limiting turnovers and understanding your “role” on the team. As a small school coach, adjusting yearly to changing personnel was the ultimate challenge.

He would like to thank all of his former players and others who helped make this award possible. It is a tremendous honor to be included with all past and present WBCA inductees.

Dan Zoeller

Florence High School

Dan Zoeller is a 1969 graduate of Florence High School. He earned a varsity letter in football all four years and was selected the Most Valuable Player in football his senior year. Dan also participated in basketball and track all four years, lettering three years in both.

Dan continued his education at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh where he earned degrees in physical education and health.

During his 31 years of teaching at the school district of Florence County, Dan was the assistant varsity football coach for 19 years (with one state runner-up team) and head track coach for 20 years, winning the girls state track title in 1996. He also served as athletic director for 17 years.

In addition, Dan organized and served as team leader for the Florence chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

Dan began coaching basketball at Florence High School in 1977 when he accepted the position of coaching the varsity girls’ basketball team.

Dan remained in the position for 29 years, retiring with a win-loss record of 535-103. He won 19 conference championships, 12 regional championships and one sectional championship (2001) qualifying his team for the Wisconsin state basketball tournament. Dan was recognized by the WBCA Girls All Star game and head coach in 2005. Throughout his years of coaching, Dan had six girls score over 1,000 points.

Dan would like to recognize his fellow coaches, the athletes he has had the opportunity to work with, their families and the community as a whole for the success he has had throughout his coaching career.

He believes that athletics has given him the platform to teach life’s lessons. Watching student athletes grow in character as individuals and as a team, develop strong values, and demonstrating a positive work ethic has been his greatest reward. Dan still receives emails, phone calls and visits from many of his past athletes.

Dan would like to extend a special thank you to his wife, Wendy, and two children, Sandra and Bill, for their love and support throughout his career.

He would also like to thank the WBCA for considering him worthy of this reward. Dan is truly humbled by this honor.