PHOTO: Isaac Rosefelt and teammate Amare Stoudamire celebrate a recent tournament championship forHapoel Jerusalem
St. Thomas Men's Basketball finds itself in elite company. Not only has the program claimed two NCAA team crowns in the last six seasons, it has the second longest regular-season conference title streak in NCAA basketball (11 seasons). UST trails just the Kansas Jayhawks' 12 consecutive Big 12 crowns.
It's impressive that one of the guys who helped start the MIAC championship streak -- St. Paul native Isaac "Ike" Rosefelt -- is still going strong in his 10th season of professional basketball.
To illustrate the cool factor of Rosefelt's ascencion, note that a current teammate in Jerusalem is former NBA all-star Amare Stoudamire.
Rosefelt played high school basketball at St. Thomas Academy and spent one season as a scholarship player at Bowling Green where he said he temporarily lost his love for the sport. The center transferred to UST and played his final three seasons under Coach Steve Fritz from 2004-07, regaining his love for basketball.
In three seasons and 80 games playing for the Tommies, Rosefelt became the first conference player selected as a two-time, first-team All-America by the National Association of Basketball Coaches. He was also a two-time MIAC Player of the Year and two-time West Region Player of the Year. He was inducted into the UST Athletic Hall of Fame in 2013.
Despite playing only three seasons, Rosefelt still ranks in the top 15 in career scoring (1,367 points) and fourth in career rebounding (859). He also had 177 blocked shots and 44 double-doubles in points and rebounds. He was the first player in 20-plus years to lead the MIAC in rebounding for three consecutive seasons. He averaged 16.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in nine career postseason games.
Rosefelt is especially proud of one regular-season victory, one he said helped changed the program's mindset. When the Tommies played at Gustavus early in 2005-06, the Gusties were a top-10 team and the two-time defending conference champion, and St. Thomas was unranked.
"On paper, they were supposed to beat us and they were a favorite in the league, but we destroyed them," he said of the 87-51 road win. "Everything changed from that night on. It was a turning point. It made us want to work even harder because we knew what our team was capable of. That year started the streak of conference championships."
10-Year Run (and counting)
Rosefelt, who wears jersey No. 91, is currently on the best team he's played on during his pro career -- Hapoel Jerusalem.
Hapoel, which plays in the two-year-old, 11,600-seat Pais Arena, was 2014-2015 Israeli champions and 2015-2016 Israeli runner up. They will travel to Spain, Russia, Slovenia, and Germany this season. The squad won a high profile tournament in August. Jerusalem has a population of 1.1 million in its metro area.
Last season while playing for Hapoel Holonia in Tel Aviv, Rosefelt averaged 10.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg while converting 55.8 percet from the floor and 69 percent from the line. In his six-year run with that team he finished with 1,388 points and 973 rebounds
Rosefelt said his development on and off the court as St. Thomas helped prepare him for his extended professional opportunity.
"It's one of the most recognized teams in all of Europe, and playing here has been a goal of mine since I first came to Israel seven years ago," Rosefelt said. "This next chapter in my career will push me in new ways, and I'm excited for the challenges the next two years have to offer.
"It's crazy how time flies, and that's it's been nine years since i graduated from the University of St Thomas. Despite being overseas for most of the year, I still make sure to catch as many basketball games as possible online. It has been amazing to follow the team's success over the years, and to watch the guys I mentored become national champions, as well as successful businessmen.
"My time spent at St Thomas has been key in my success overseas. Learning how to build positive relationships with individuals, and how to communicate with people from different cultures began my first day at UST, and continues to be a part of my daily life.
"From an athletic perspective, I was taught how to motivate and push myself to limits I didn't know were possible. The NCAA (rules) doesn't let Division III coaches from being involved as much compared to other levels. As a result, during the summers, my growth as a player was often in my own hands. This is the time where I found out the most about myself and where I learned the motivational skills that have brought me to the level I am at today."
St. Thomas coach Johnny Tauer said he often cites Isaac Rosefelt's story when he looks to educate his own team and youth players at his summer camps. He said Rosefelt took full advantage of his St. Thomas opportunity to grow as a player and an individual.
"We are incredibly proud of all of Isaac's success," Tauer said. "I've known Isaac since he was in fifth grade when he started attending our basketball camps. What has impressed me the most about Isaac over the years has been the way he challenged himself to grow and improve while leading a balanced life full of rich friendships. His curiosity and passion for life provide a foundation for excellence. Isaac continues to come back to the Twin Cities every summer and work at our summer basketball camps. For the campers to learn from a player who developed from a skinny college freshman who couldn't bench press 135 pounds into a two-time first team All-American and now a 10-year professional playing on one of the top teams in Europe is an experience they will not forget anytime soon.
"The culture of our program is built on excellence and unselfishness, and Isaac embodies both of those traits. Several of our alums in the past decade have played either played professionally or are coaching basketball. We are proud of the work they are doing to promote the game of basketball while teaching values and lessons that will serve their players long after their playing days are over. Our high percentage of our young alums who play or coach shortly after graduation highlights their passion for basketball and the way in which UST basketball helped cultivate their love of the game."
UST Basketball Alums who have played professionally:
- Isaac Rosefelt, Israel
- Bryan Schnettler, Rochester Fire
- Marcus Alipate, New Zealand
- Conner Nord, Germany
- Teddy Archer, Spain
- Anders Halvorsen, Spain
- Will DeBerg, France
- Joe Scott, Germany
- Tommy Hannon, Australia
UST Basketball Alums in coaching:
- Mike Keating - UST
- Josh Rodenbiker - UST
- Alex McCoy - UST
- Will DeBerg - UST
- Conner Nord - Carleton
- Bryan Schnettler – Wayzata High Head Coach
- Jake Dammann – Wayzata High
- Josh Peltier - Wayzata High
- Sean Sweeney – Milwaukee Bucks
- John Tauer - UST head coach
Gene's Blog is a sports column penned by UST sports information director Gene McGivern. Gene is working in his 23rd season at St. Thomas and 29th overall in the MIAC. He blogs periodically on various topics regarding the Tommies, the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) and Division III sports.
If you have comments or questions, e-mail Gene at firstname.lastname@example.org