(Auburn) -- Auburn senior Cam Binder's career ends as one of folklore thanks to his clutch game-winning shots, gritty defense and three state titles. Now the Nebraska-Kearney commit can add a second KMAland Nebraska Player of the Year honor to the legend.
"I've been kinda soaking it all in," Binder said. "I've been able to think about what I accomplished at Auburn."
You might know Binder as the engineer of KMAland's most dominant basketball program over the past three is. That is true, but it wasn't always that way.
"The things I was able to do in four years are pretty remarkable," he said. "In eighth grade, I would have been shell-shocked how it ended up. It was a blessing."
To understand Binder's dominant senior season, where he averaged 14.5 points per game and shot 42 percent from deep, you must first understand the groundwork laid in the previous years.
The Bulldogs were 16-10 in Binder's freshman season but fell short of the state tournament.
The following year, they posted a 21-3 record and qualified for the Class C1 state tournament for the first time since 1985. Few gave them a chance when they entered as the No. 3 seed. Binder's clutch shots in the semifinals and finals propelled the Bulldogs to their first state title.
"At the time, I told my mom that I was just happy we got there," Binder said. "There really weren't any expectations. Maybe that's why I played so well and hit those shots. It was pretty remarkable and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
While Auburn's first state title was unexpected, the next was a foregone conclusion.
The Bulldogs rolled through the regular season and entered the state tournament at 23-0. They edged Ashland-Greenwood by six in the quarterfinals, ousted Lincoln Christian by 12 in the semis and posted a 24-point win over Ogallala to cap an undefeated season and second consecutive state title.
Oh, and the Bulldogs' second triumph came while dealing with the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We were very dominant," Binder said. "We started to freak out a little bit because we didn't know what the thing (COVID-19) was and what it might do to our season. We handled our business."
The second state championship victory was Auburn's 36th consecutive win.
They tried to downplay it, but Binder admits there was pressure.
"Everybody had their eyes on us and expected us to win," he said.
The Bulldogs lived up to those expectations nightly, compiling a 26-0 record.
But it wasn't completely smooth sailing. Auburn staved off a double-overtime classic with Omaha Concordia in the semis and edged Adams Central in the title game, despite a rough offensive day for Binder.
"To go out like that was pretty special," Binder said. "It was absolute happiness and joy. Getting the third one meant so much to me."
Binder finishes with 1,707 career points. Most people remember him for his frequent late-game heroics, but perhaps the most impressive part of Binder's game came on the defensive end.
"I was a pretty big liability on defense as a freshman," he said. "Over the years, I transitioned as the guy that guarded the best players. We put up fewer points per game every single year. It's not talent. It's just hard work."
Binder says he also improved mentally.
"As a freshman, I was wild and rambunctious," he said. "Everything got better, by those two things (defense and mentality) were the most profound."
While many people will choose to remember Binder's clutch shots and dominant showings, it's much more than that for Binder.
"I'm going to remember the people around me," he said. "The great memories I created with Coach (Jim Weeks) and my teammates is something I'll never forget. The championships are great, but having those memories are something I will always be thankful for."
The complete interview with Binder can be heard below.