OSSEO — It didn’t happen overnight.
No, it was a process which unfolded over the course of countless hours spent in the gym and the weight room, each day a quest to be slightly better and more fearless than the last.
And sometime between the sounding of the final buzzer of the 2017-18 season and the first sneakers squeaking on the gym floor last November, that process turned Logan Mulhern into an indomitable force and leader on the basketball court.
“Sometime this year, he definitely became that player that’s not afraid of the big moment,” Osseo-Fairchild coach Tim Popple said. “Somebody has to take the plunge and lead, and Logan did that somewhere along the way this season.”
Indeed he did. Mulhern’s rise to join the state’s elite led Osseo-Fairchild back to a place it hadn’t been in 27 years: the state tournament.
The senior was unstoppable on his way to putting Osseo-Fairchild back on the basketball map. And for his efforts, he’s the 2018-19 Leader-Telegram All-Northwest boys basketball player of the year.
His credentials are undeniable. Mulhern’s name sits at No. 6 in the all-time career scoring leaders for northwest Wisconsin with 1,927 points to his credit. He led the area in scoring this season with 26.9 points per game, and was second in rebounding, pulling down 12.1 boards per contest.
Simply put, his legacy will be tough to match.
“This is going to go down in the history books as one of the best seasons the school’s ever had,” Mulhern said. “My dad always talks to me about how his high school team was so good, and now I can talk to my kids like that.”
On March 14 in Madison, the senior made sure he would not be forgotten anytime soon.
Mulhern put on a show in front of a statewide audience, torching Oshkosh Lourdes Academy for 33 points, 20 rebounds and six assists in a performance that neared several state tournament records during a loss in the Division 4 state semifinals.
He played like a raging bull, often bursting through a crowd of several Knights to grab a seemingly impossible offensive rebound to keep the Thunder in the game right until the finish.
The result didn’t go Osseo-Fairchild’s way — the Thunder lost 70-68 — but the star of the show belonged to the Thunder.
All those hours put in during the offseason to become the leader Osseo-Fairchild needed bore fruit that night, and every step along the way to get there.
“I was just locked in. I knew what I had to do,” Mulhern said. “I was playing like a senior that didn’t want to go home. I left everything on the court and played as hard as I could.”
As for the impressive rebounding Mulhern pulled off all year long despite his relatively modest 6-foot-2 stature for a forward? It was built in the weight room during the offseason.
“I worked really hard with weightlifting in the offseason, so a lot of times I was just stronger than the other guy,” Mulhern said. “So I could power my way through and do what I wanted.”
Area coaches can attest to that.
Osseo-Fairchild took down Large Dairyland Conference runner-up Augusta 91-72 in mid-February. Mulhern tallied a triple-double for the Thunder in the win, scoring 19 points while grabbing 11 rebounds and dishing 10 assists. He caused major headaches for the Beavers.
“You can have a really good defensive possession against Osseo-Fairchild, and Logan will just come down with the offensive board and putback and your effort will be for nothing,” Augusta coach Chris Schmitt said. “He can score in a variety of ways, but you don’t realize how tough he is to stop until you play against them.”
Mulhern departs the Thunder as the school’s all-time leading scorer. His 727 points this season were the fourth-most all-time in a single season in northwest Wisconsin.
Beyond the individual accolades, he raised the level of play of the entire Osseo-Fairchild team.
“He could have scored 50 each night, but instead made his teammates better,” said Alma Center Lincoln coach Jeremy Hanson, who saw the effect Mulhern has on a game when his team scrimmaged the Thunder this year. “He’s not just the best this year, he’s an all-time great for the Eau Claire area.”
The trophy case at Osseo-Fairchild is a little bit more crowded thanks to this year’s group. Mulhern and his teammates won the Western Cloverbelt Conference title this year and last season, although the turnaround from five-win team to conference champion and eventual sectional champion surprised even Mulhern.
“Getting to state was always a dream when I was younger, but I never thought we’d be able to achieve it,” he said. “Junior year, it was a pretty big surprise winning the conference. Nobody thought we would, but when we did it was a big confidence boost. Moving on from there I knew we would do great things.”
Mulhern plans to play college basketball, although he is still undecided on where. He said he plans to make a choice by the end of April, with Winona State, UW-Stevens Point, UW-Stout and St. Norbert all serving as potential landing spots.
To Mulhern, being a role model for the kids in the communities of Osseo and Fairchild is the most important part of his legacy. Popple has seen the effect of that firsthand.
“It’s pretty easy to go down to the elementary school and get third, fourth and fifth graders fired up about basketball when you’ve got a guy like Logan being the face of the program,” Popple said.
There was an alumni tournament for the Osseo-Fairchild program this weekend, bringing plenty of talk of the best of all time to the school.
Popple thinks he’s got a pretty good idea of who that is.
“I doubt if I’ll ever coach another player like him. He’s a tremendous athlete, and he’s got instincts that coaches can try to take credit for, but it’s all him,” Popple said. “There’s not very much of a question that Logan is one of the best that ever played in Osseo.”