Hard work has paid off for Baltic's Nate Stadem on and off the court.

The 5'10" guard is at the gym all the time. Stadem has been playing basketball his whole life, as both his parents are basketball coaches. His dad is still the girls basketball coach at Brandon Valley, while his mom is a former girls coach at Baltic. He says adjusting to being around the game definitely took time.

"Right away, I didn't understand it. There would be nights when we would have to go to the gym again, but eventually growing up, I understood they were (his parents) there to teach me."

Fortunately, Nate stuck with basketball, and he consistently refined his skills on the hardwood to make himself a complete player.

"I put in a lot of time. At first, when I was younger, I was just a shooter. I would catch and shoot. Then, I put in a lot of time over the summer. I was working on my pull-up game, and my dribble moves to create space and be a better scorer off the dribble."

His work ethic is what makes him special. He's not the biggest, or tallest, but is one of the hardest workers in the gym.

"Nate's a really hard working kid. He is not the biggest kid in the world, but he has a lot of heart. He works really, really hard, and has a lot of success because of it. He is very dedicated to what he does. He puts a lot of hours in. He is passionate to do well at whatever he does. Especially, basketball," says head coach Alex Langner. "He wants to succeed, and that's the biggest thing that drives him, that desire for success. It's a big challenge for him. He really wants to be the best at what he does and expects as much out of himself as much as we do as coaches."

The results were seen on the floor. Before last summer, he was more of an outside threat, but then worked on getting to the basket, and into the paint. Plus, he developed a jump shot off the dribble that allows him to elevate over other players, and to have great touch around the rim. As a senior, he became a starter averaging 11.6 points per game. Last year, he came off the bench in his junior year as a sixth man. Langner says he loved coaching Nate as a player.

"Nate's a great kid. He's one of those kids that he will do whatever he asks, and then some. He works hard, wants to do the best he can do for you, and does not want to disappoint. As a coach, you love to have kids like that. He is a very coachable kid. Like a sponge for basketball knowledge. He has a great mind for game, and been around basketball, with both his parents being coaches in past and currently. He's is one that will give input and doesn't try and tell you what is going on, but at same time, takes direction very well."

As a coaches dream, he makes his teammates better around him. too. Nate was a team captain for Baltic this past season, and enjoyed being a high-energy player for the Bulldogs to feed off on the court.

"I tried to be the energy guy, and try to get them pumped. Give them energy or when they do something good, give them a pat on the back, or even when they do something bad, you got to be there, too. Say it's ok, and we will get the next one. Always positively reinforcing them," tells Stadem.

Nate didn't attract all the attention, and his coach couldn't agree more.

"Nate's a team player, he wants the best for his team first. He's willing to do things on different nights that some kids might not accept real well. Some nights he might lead scoring, or some nights he might be more of a facilitator or passer. He is our outside threat, and one our kids that can get to the basket, but is not a selfish player. He gets his shots, but doesn't ever seem like he is a ballhog by any means. He is a catalyst for our team. If he plays well, our team plays well," adds Langner.

He always looked for different ways to contribute by scoring, passing, on defense, or by encouraging his team. He hopes his teammates recognized him as a leader.

"I hope they would say he taught us how to work hard, and was always there for us."

His coach believes Nate's teammates do see him as a leader, in school, and on the basketball court.

"Academically, he is one of the top students in his class. Athletically, he is one of the kids that gets kids to play ball and to weight room. You know, he leads by example. He expects as much out of his teammates as he does himself, and it's a great thing as a coach to have that because sometimes as a coach you feel like you keep talking and talking and then kids stop listening. To have those leaders, and a kid that can be a motivator and get kids to go in right direction, it's a benefit of the coaching staff. I think his teammates rally around him and respond to his energy that he brings to our program."

Stadem definitely didn't take for granted playing basketball at Baltic. The Bulldogs were a close team, and had each others backs. Perhaps his favorite part of playing basketball was the team aspect.

"It (basketball) connects you with a group of people and strong group. It has taught me that hard work will pay off. The more work you put into something, the better you will be."

His team was special, but playing in a community with a little over 1,100 people, meant the world to Stadem.

"Everyone is so nice, and down to earth. The community is always involved. They know when the game is going on, and they will come to game. Everybody is here, and it's a real nice environment."

Nate is thankful for his coaches, teammates, and community for helping him become a better basketball player.

"It showed me what I had to do and what had to be done. The amount of effort it is going to take so I can put in more and have a good base for when I go off to college."

Langner is equally as appreciative because Nate is one of those kids a coach doesn't get as often.

"He is a kid that at night, you have to kick him out of the gym because he won't go home. He is a gym rat, and loves the gym. It is kind of a sanctuary for him, a place where he feels confident, comfortable and relaxed. As a coach, you are appreciative of that. It doesn't come along that often. I am thankful for having the last four years with him. He is a good kid that comes from great family. Very respectful, honest, never oversteps his boundaries and always does what he asks. Doesn't give you a lot of flack and it is one of those things with him, you can always trust him. You never have to worry what he is going to do on the floor because he knows within the framework of a game what his skillset is, what he is capable of and what is expected of him. Practice-wise, and game-wise, he always gives you a 110%, going as hard as he possibly can, and loves to play basketball. That's one of the things I am going to miss the most about having Nate as a player, just his drive and passion for game."

Nate is planning on attending Dakota Wesleyan to play basketball next season, where he will play for Matt Wilber. When he's not playing basketball, he loves watching Duke, and his favorite player, Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. At school, he loves science, and plans to go into the medical field. He also has participated in One Act, FCCLA, National Honor Society, Student Council, and Spanish Club at Baltic.

Photo Via Sam Tastad/ESPN 99.1