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The Drill: Chol stayed put; players and fans are happy he did

WORTHINGTON -- When Kuol Chol entered Minnesota West Community and Technical College as a freshman, he was regarded as a remarkable talent, albeit still somewhat raw. He played well, positioning himself nicely in his sophomore year to be a real f...

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Minnesota West men's basketball player Kuol Chol is a leader for the Bluejays this season. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON -- When Kuol Chol entered Minnesota West Community and Technical College as a freshman, he was regarded as a remarkable talent, albeit still somewhat raw. He played well, positioning himself nicely in his sophomore year to be a real force with the Bluejays.

Shortly before the 2017-18 campaign began, however, Chol had a decision to make. His coach, Kris Babler, left the school suddenly. What was he to do?

Already, several of his teammates from the 2016-17 season had left Worthington for other programs. Chol, who had already escaped one college for West (in North Platte, Neb.) because it “wasn’t a good situation,” now had to decide whether to stay or go again.

He decided to stay. For maturity reasons, he said.

“I had to step up as a leader and I had to show up every day, because the freshmen were looking up to me,” he recalled.

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Seems like he made the right decision. On a team with several very athletic freshmen, Chol is a leader on a Bluejays squad that started slowly but has since won seven consecutive games. The new coach, Aaron Poor Bear, stresses speed and aggressiveness, taking full advantage of the players’ natural abilities.

Poor Bear, said Chol, took on some tough responsibilities. “But he stepped up and showed us what we needed to do.”

Besides a sophomore’s experience, Chol -- who played his high school basketball at Ames, Iowa -- brings good height (he’s 6-5) and quickness. He’s a deft ball handler and can score from all over the court. He’s a relative newcomer to the sport of basketball, but he’s naturally gifted as his 17-point, 7.5-rebound, 3.3-assist per game average from his freshman season attests.

The Globe shot some video footage of Chol recently and spliced it into a package along with a personal interview for The Drill. You can view the video online at www.dglobe.com . Here’s a sampling of the interview:

QUESTION: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and what you were doing in Ames prior to arriving at Minnesota West?

ANSWER: “I actually didn’t play a lot since my freshman year (of high school). I was playing soccer for the longest time. It actually got too cold for me, so I started looking for something else that was more inside. Most of my friends were playing basketball, so I picked that up.”

Q: Did you have to go through some growing pains with basketball?

A: “My high school basketball career was actually pretty crazy. I moved a lot when I was young, so even going through high school I had to move a lot. So I always had to get used to a new system every I’d go. Just like when I came here, I had to get used to a new system.”

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Q: When Coach Babler moved on from Minnesota West, was that a shock to you? What went through your mind at that point?

A: “We’re trying to build a winning tradition. … A lot of people did leave from last year. That was kind of hard to adjust to, but I stayed because I needed to work on myself more. I know I needed that for myself.”

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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