Sports Odds & Ends
It’s been three years since the University of St. Thomas made an unprecedented move from Division III and the MIAC to Division I in 2020. Last month, the university received the largest single private donation ever to a Minnesota college or university—$75 million—to fund a $175 million multi-purpose on-campus arena for men’s basketball and men’s and women’s hockey.
“The Anderson family gave us a tremendous amount of money,” said Cameron Rundles, St. Thomas’ men’s assistant basketball coach, of Lee and Penny Anderson’s gift. In 2007, the two gave $60 million toward St. Thomas’ student center and athletic and recreation complex.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said Rundles, now in his second year with the Tommies. “We’re really grateful and we’re thankful to the Anderson family.”
St. Thomas joins the University of Minnesota as the state’s only Division I schools. The Tommies are in their second year of D-I sports and Summit League membership. The men’s basketball team has posted wins against North Dakota and North Dakota State earlier this season.
They also have been ranked in the conference’s top five in several categories, including second in free-throw percentage, assist-to-turnover ratio, scoring margin and turnover margin.
“The transition is still there,” admits Rundles after his team’s impressive 60-54 victory over South Dakota State on Jan. 26. “I think we’re shocking a lot of people around [here] and we’re making it known that we’re kind of here for the real deal for Division I.”
Rundles, a Minneapolis DeLaSalle grad, attended the University of Montana and played there for two seasons before transferring to Wolford College, where he and his teammates made the school’s first-ever consecutive NCAA appearances in 2010 and 2011. He also played pro ball overseas for 10 years and coached at his college alma mater for one year.
But the opportunity to come home and coach was a no-brainer, said Rundles, who’s married and has two children. “My kids get to be around their family members.”
“Being in Europe for 10 years, that was the hardest part, me not being around my family and having kids.”
The opportunity gave Rundles a chance to work with veteran head coach Johnny Tauer, who has coached the Tommies for 12 seasons and was twice a national coach of the year honoree. Tauer also was a UST assistant coach for 11 years, and as a Tommie ranks among the school’s all-time hoopsters. He is a Cretin-Derham Hall grad as well.
“He’s Mr. St. Paul,” said Rundles of Tauer. “For him to really welcome me with open arms and give me a voice in this thing, that’s never been done before. I just couldn’t be more honored.”
East Ridge graduate Kendall Blue is one of three Black players on this year’s squad. The 6’ 6” freshman guard ranks fifth in team scoring (8.5 ppg) and is shooting over 45 percent from the field. He made his first start on Nov. 29 versus North Central and has been in the starting lineup ever since.
“The new style of play, new physicality and everything,” Blue said of the transition from prep to college after the South Dakota State game, “I think I’ve adapted pretty well.” But he added that he still has to improve his overall game, especially in “the little areas.”
“Kendall is a kid who came in super talented,” said Rundles. “[He] had things to work on, particularly his strength and getting stronger. Personally, I thought he would actually need a year or two before he was really effective.
“But he worked his way from coming off the bench to starting,” observed Rundles of Blue. “Nobody’s been more coachable than him. I’m proud of him.”
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