Passion and Motivation for Their Sport, Their Studies and Their Teams

Editor's Note: Dr. John Tauer, who teaches psychology and is assistant coach of the men's basketball team, contributed this blog to The Scroll.

One of the most gratifying parts of our work at St. Thomas is spending time with students during a transformative part of their lives. Watching 18-year-old freshmen become 22- and 23-year-old seniors living a UST motto, “Challenge yourself, change our world,” is nothing short of a privilege. We see our students work in classrooms, research labs, groups, clubs and organizations as they challenge themselves to grow, mature and develop physically, mentally, spiritually and socially.

This week, we have the opportunity to honor eight outstanding student-athletes on the men’s and women’s basketball teams. I have had the distinct pleasure to coach these five men and to watch these three women over the past four years. To say they have had a profound impact on our campus life at St. Thomas is an understatement.

Tyler Nicolai, the All-American guard from Hopkins, has a youthful countenance that makes him appear still a freshman (wouldn’t it be nice to have him here for four more years!) . . . until you see him play and realize he is as good a guard as there is in the country. Tyler has started every game for the past four years, the first UST player to do so since the 1980s!

Alex Healy, the sharpshooter from White Bear Lake, has transformed his game from that of a stationary shooter to one where he is a threat from everywhere on the court.

Anders Halvorsen, the versatile power forward from Henry Sibley, can shoot from the outside, post up, block shots and dunk with authority.

Teddy Archer, the athletic one-man press from De La Salle, changes the tempo and energy of a game in a heartbeat.

Brady Ervin, the two-sport athlete from Eden Prairie, looks and plays basketball like an All-American safety (which he is), coming up with every loose ball in his area code and knocking down critical jump shots.

Over the past four years, these seniors have a record of 96-13, including a conference record of 71-7! They are part of a streak of five consecutive MIAC championships and NCAA bids, hoping to make it six of each over the next two weeks. They could leave UST with more wins than any senior class in history.

On the women’s side, Jazmin Townsend from Coon Rapids is a four-year letter winner who is a versatile defender and the team’s assists leader.

Rachel Booth, the center from De La Salle who transferred from St. Cloud State last year, had an immediate impact as a dominant post.

Becky Theisen, a four-year player from New Prague, has been All-MIAC in basketball and an All-American in track.

These three women have combined for a 78-28 overall record, including 66-20 in the MIAC, and just clinched another MIAC title on Saturday with a tremendous win at Gustavus.

Beyond the records, what I will remember most about these eight individuals has little to do with their individual achievements (of which there are many) and far more to do with how each of them has sacrificed for the greater good of their teams. They come from unique backgrounds, but what they have in common has a lot to do with the UST mission: “…students who think critically, act wisely, and work skillfully to advance the common good.”

Each could have scored and shot more at the expense of the team. My lasting memories will be of them making an extra pass, playing tough defense, blocking out, diving for loose balls, and encouraging and celebrating with their teammates after another UST victory.

I double as a psychology professor who studies intrinsic motivation. These outstanding seniors have passion and motivation for their sport, their studies and their teams. They have volunteered in our reading program at local schools to work with students. They have worked with young basketball players at camps. They have excelled on and off the court. They will graduate and go on to contribute to the community.

Simply put, these senior student-athletes embody the Division III experience, where there is truly a balance between athletics and academics.

Senior Day is right around the corner – a chance to appreciate and honor our seniors. Let’s pack Schoenecker Arena tonight for the men’s game vs. Hamline at 7:30 p.m. and again on Saturday for the women’s game vs. St. Benedict’s at 1 p.m.

On behalf of the entire UST community: Thank you Tyler, Alex, Anders, Brady, Teddy, Jazmin, Becky, and Rachel!