Grant Besse is coming back to high school.
Technically, Benilde-St. Margaret's high-scoring junior forward never left. But Besse's decision to return for his senior season is noteworthy considering the annual stream of here today, gone tomorrow local prep hockey standouts.
Besse could have left as well. He capped a 53-goal junior season by scoring all five goals in the Red Knights' 5-1 victory against Hill-Murray in the Class 2A state championship game. There seemingly was nothing more for Besse to prove.
In addition, the Red Knights recently lost promising sophomore defensemen Jack Glover and Ryan Collins to the U.S. National Team Development Program. Besse, who has verbally committed to Wisconsin and is eligible for the NHL draft this summer, could have left for Muskegon of the United States Hockey League to play more games against a higher level of competition.
But since he has chosen to return for his senior season, Besse, his family and coaches want to quell any offseason rumors to the contrary.
"I'm very proud of the way he's conducted himself in such a mature way," said John Besse, Grant's father. "Those attributes will carry him throughout life. He's grown up a lot and he owes a lot of it to his coaches and teammates."
Besse spoke with Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about his decision.
Q: Why are you deciding to come back to high school now when there are unknowns ahead like the NHL draft that could change your situation?
A: The thing that matters is just loyalty to the team. Before my freshman year I maybe wasn't as committed to the team, but after everything we've been through with Jack [Jablonski] and how close we've become, we're basically all brothers. I don't feel I could bring myself to let that go. I don't want to run off and play somewhere else and leave them hung out to dry.
Q: Is Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves supportive of your decision?
A: Yeah, I've been talking to him about staying in high school. He said, 'Whatever you want to do, we'll support you.' He thought it would be a cool thing for me to stay home, graduate from Benilde and try and win another state championship. And we're going to have an independent schedule next fall, so I think the level of competition will be better and help my development even more.
Q: Does coach Eaves feel you could play for him right out of high school or are you looking at playing juniors at some point?
A: The scholarship they gave me was for the 2014 season, so as of right now I'd play a year of juniors after high school. But I've heard they are re-evaluating and there is a chance I could come in as a true freshman.
Q: So let's say you get drafted higher than expected in the NHL draft this summer and the money is better. You're still a Benilde guy next season?
Q: Are you trying to set an example or send a message to the other talented hockey players in the Class of 2013 about sticking around?
A: I'm just doing what's best for myself. Everyone has their own unique situations. I don't think that in my situation it's necessary for me to leave. For some other kids, it might be.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574