Four inducted into Merrill Basketball Hall of Fame
BY TINA L. SCOTT
A crowd turned out to cheer on the Boys and Girls during their Varsity Basketball Games Saturday night, Jan. 27, 2024, but a good number of the fans were also there to support the Merrill Basketball Program’s annual Hall of Fame (HOF) Night and to celebrate this year’s four inductees into the Merrill Basketball Hall of Fame (HOF).
Rory Osness – Boys’ Player Inductee
Rory Osness was the evening’s HOF inductee in the Boys’ Player category. Osness was a Merrill Bluejay Boys Varsity Basketball player from 1988-1990 and racked up significant statistics during his years of play. He is only the second player to surpass 1,000 points in his Merrill Basketball career, finishing with 1,068 points in just three years. At the time, that was the second most points in Merrill High School (MHS) history. He still ranks 6th in Merrill for all-time scoring.
As a Sophomore player in 1988, Osness averaged 12.2 points per game. He set new Wisconsin Valley Conference (WVC) records for most free throws made and attempted in a game, going 20-24, along with scoring 33 points in a win against Wausau East.
In 1989 as a Junior, he made First Team WVC and ended up the fourth leading scorer. He scored 26 points in the Regional Final win against Rhinelander, taking the team to Sectionals at the Brown County Arena.
In 1990 as a Senior, Osness averaged 19.5 points a game, totaling 274 points for the season, including scoring 38 of Merrill’s 50 points in a game against Wausau East. He made nine 3-pointers in that game. He was named Second Team WVC and Team MVP. He ranks 27th all time in WVC scoring with 726 points, placing him third among all Merrill players.
Fun fact: Current Boys Varsity Head Coach Troy Pieper readily admits Osness was his idol growing up. He said he would pretend to be Rory while playing basketball in his driveway and hoped that when he got to high school, he would become as good as him!
Melissa Yuska – Girls’ Player Inductee
Melissa Yuska was a Merrill Girls Varsity Bluejay player from 1993-1997 and Saturday evening’s HOF inductee in the Girls’ Player category. She played on the Merrill Girls Varsity Basketball Team coached by her dad, Bob Yuska, and was a four-year Varsity starter and letter winner, the first Freshman in MHS history to play Varsity Basketball. She made Honorable Mention All-State as both a Sophomore and Junior, made Second-Team All-State as a Senior, and was also an Honorable Mention All-American selection as a Senior. She was WVC First-Team All-Conference in 1995, 1996, and 1997; averaged 17.2 points and 10.1 rebounds per game as a Senior; was the first Merrill girl to score more than 1,000 points in her high school career; and she finished with 1,126 total points in her career. She still holds the record for Girls Basketball at MHS.
In constant pursuit of excellence in her game, Yuska participated in the first Nike All-American Camp for women; attended Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Senior Camp for top 100 players; was a United States Army Reserve National Scholar/Athlete Award winner; and had numerous Division I scholarship offers before she accepted an offer from Indiana University. Unfortunately, her basketball career was cut short due to injuries, but everything she learned from playing for her father, who she credits with much of her success, came back to benefit MHS again some years later when Yuska became the Merrill Girls Head Basketball Coach from 2007-2014.
Currently, she is the Principal at Little Chute Elementary School in Little Chute, Wis.
Tom Andreska – Coach Inductee
Tom Andreska coached the Merrill Boys Basketball Team for 35 years, from 1983-2019. He started his basketball coaching career while attending UW-Stout, coaching the fifth and sixth grade team at St. Joe’s Catholic School, before coming to Merrill. During his 35-year tenure at Merrill, he coached the eighth grade team for four years, the Sophomore team (when that was a thing) for two years, the JV team for 15 years, and then served as Head Varsity Coach for 14 years from 1993-2007. During his time as Varsity Coach, he set and still holds the Merrill WVC record for the most wins in a season, going 12-4 in 1993-1994. In addition to that, he is the only coach in Merrill Boys Basketball history to coach a State Runner-Up Team (2010-2011) [Fun fact: He coached those same kids during their fourth through eighth grade traveling team years] and to coach a WVC regular season Conference Championship Team (2018-2019).
Andreska started Merrill traveling teams being part of the Great Northwest Basketball League (GNBL) and brought the GNBL State Tournament to Merrill. It is still held in Merrill. In 1993, he started the Merrill Boys Basketball Booster Club, which still operates today, as well.
In addition to coaching, Andreska taught Technology Education at MHS from 1983 until he retired in 2018.
Fun Fact: Current Merrill Boys Varsity Basketball Head Coach Troy Pieper had Andreska as his Varsity Coach from 1995-1998.
Kate Knott – Friend of the Program/Lifetime Achievement Inductee
Kate Knott started as the Girls Basketball Team Manager in 1996 and still continues in this role, more than 27 years later. Players and coaches have come and gone through the program, but Knott has been a constant. She loves what she does and shows up every day ready to work with a great sense of humor, a big smile, a lot of energy, and dedication that inspires others to be better, nominators said. She is especially known for her infamous and motivating team speeches. The players love her and say Kate is “secretly hilarious” and always gets the players smiling and laughing with her. They love how she gets them pumped up.
“Kate always delivers a great pre-game speech which always ends with her hand up in the middle of the team and saying, ‘Now let’s go win this thing!’” nominators said.
And at the last away game of the season, “she walks to the back of the bus and delivers her season re-cap to the team, letting them know that they had a great season and should be proud of themselves.”
Beyond her contributions to the Merrill Basketball Program, inducting Knott into the HOF is not only a testimony to her spirit, her humility, and her dedication to her position as the Girls Basketball Manager, but also to her character.
Congratulations to all of this year’s inductees into the Merrill Basketball Hall of Fame!