Brabender, Nordgaard, Piechowski inducted into Tribune's Hall of Fame

When Wayne Brabender played basketball at the University of Minnesota-Morris, his teammate and roommate was John Nordgaard, the father of one of the other two who will join him in being inducted into the Tribune Sports Hall of Fame.

When Wayne Brabender played basketball at the University of Minnesota-Morris, his teammate and roommate was John Nordgaard, the father of one of the other two who will join him in being inducted into the Tribune Sports Hall of Fame.

Brabender was the top vote-getter, while Chari Nordgaard Knueppel and Tim Piechowski tied for second. The top vote-getters are inducted each season.

"It's nice to still be remembered," said Brabender, from his home in Spain, where he has lived since 1967. "I appreciate the honor."

Brabender recived 114 points, including seven first-place votes.

There were 25 voters - one from each of the 21 school districts in the area, plus four Tribune employees. Voting was done on a 10-7-5-3-1 point system.


Nordgaard and Piechowski had 97 points each. Each had four first-place votes.

"It's really an honor for me," said Nordgaard. "And to be honored with such a limited number of people, doubles the honor."

The three latest inductees join 14 others in the Hall of Fame, which began in 1999 with Mike Kingery, Barry Wohler, Bob Bruggers and Brad Rheingans gaining entrance first.

"I'm flattered to be in the company of so many great athletes," said Piechowski. "I've been out of the area for 22 years now and am very honored to be remembered after all these years."

Bonnie Henrickson and Larry Cole were inducted in 2000, Roy Minter and Virg Vagle in 2001, Carrie Tollefson and Jeff Nordgaard in 2002, Mike Dreier and Dave Klug in 2003 and Michele Perkins and Val Swanson in 2004.

Brabender, 60, is a 1963 graduate of Milan High School who excelled at basketball. He played two seasons of basketball at Willmar Community College (now Ridgewater College), averaging over 20 points-per-game, then played two seasons at UM-Morris where he holds records there for career scoring average (23.6), single-season average (24.3) and rebounds in a season (303). He scored 1,119 points and grabbed 534 rebounds in only two seasons.

Brabender was then drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1967 supplemental draft. An injury kept him from making the team so he moved to Spain to play professionally for Real Madrid, an elite team, for 16 of his 18 pro seasons. He scored over 9,000 points for Real Madrid.

He was named the Most Valuable Player of the European League in 1973, was All-World first team in 1974, was Real Madrid MVP six times and a European League All-Star six times.


Brabender, who became a citizen of Spain in 1968, started for Spain in both the 1972 and 1980 Olympics.

He retired as a player in 1983 and has coached various professional and amateur basketball teams ever since. He currently teaches physical education at both the grade school and high school levels near Madrid.

Brabender has two children, David and Paloma.

Nordgaard Knueppel, a 1995 graduate of Dawson-Boyd, was a four-year starter in both basketball and volleyball and a two-year starter in softball.

She was All-Area twice and All-State once in volleyball, where she compiled 1,066 kills (10th all-time in the area) and 291 ace blocks (ninth).

In basketball, Nordgaard Knueppel scored 1,580 points (10th all-time) and grabbed 1,001 rebounds (third). She also had 432 blocks and 412 steals. She was All-Area three times and All-state twice.

Nordgaard Knueppel still holds the state record for career field-goal shooting percentage (63.58).

At the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, Nordgaard Knueppel broke the school record for career points, points in a season, points in a game and free throws made in a career, season and game. She ranked ninth in the nation in scoring her senior year (22.5 points-per-game) and twice played in the NCAA Tournament.


She played one year professionally in Athens, Greece, averaging 15 points and eight rebounds per game.

She currenty lives in Milwaukee with her husband, Kon Knueppel, and their five-month-old son, Kon II.

Piechowski, a 1984 graduate of Raymond, is inducted on his 40th birthday today. The former three-sport standout played three seasons of minor league baseball in the Montreal Expos and Texas Rangers organizations after an illustrious prep and college career.

He won the Tribune's Hengstler-Ranweiler Award for top male athlete in the area in 1984. He was All-State in basketball and baseball.

"While I was successful in high school sports and worked hard to always improve," said Piechowski, "my teammates and coaches from Raymond, as well as my teammates in Willmar VFW and Legion, never got the proper credit they deserved."

Piechowski earned three All-Area awards in basketball, two in baseball and one in football.

He led the state in scoring in basketball his senior year with a 32.9 average and finished with 1,767 points to go along with 448 rebounds and 330 steals.

He played several positions in football for Raymond and excelled at every one.


In baseball, Piechowski batted over .400 in his career and had a 20-5 pitching record, averaging two strikeouts per inning.

He went on to play three years of baseball and two basketball at St. Mary's College in Winona. He was the MVP of the MIAC Conference in baseball as a senior.

He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1988.

He currently lives in Eden Prairie with his wife, Kathy, and their daughters, Ellen, 12, and Kate, 8, and their son, Tim Jr., 5.

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