Former Buena Vista University basketball player Casey Pelzer admits he misses being an active player.
And why not? At BVU, Pelzer was a three year starter at point guard, where he helped lead the Beavers to three consecutive Iowa Conference titles and two berths in the Sweet 16 National Tournament.
"I have some great memories about what happened on the court, but some of the things I miss most are the practices, just hanging out after the practices and being with the team on road trips."
Pelzer, who already has a BVU degree in sports management but is also pursuing a second degree in coaching and education, hooked up with Storm Lake High coach Jeff Brennan this summer at a basketball gathering in Sioux City.
"Jeff asked me if I was going to be back in town this winter, and after I said yes, he asked if I wanted to help coach his team," Pelzer said.
Pelzer had a successful interview for the job, and starting last week, was working as one of Brennan's key assistants, along with being head coach of the Storm Lake junior varsity team.
"I still want to be a part of the game," said Pelzer, who plans on a career in teaching and coaching. "After my practices with BVU stopped this fall, I went right into my work with Coach Brennan and it's worked out well. It's sort of helped fill a void."
One can certainly see that there would be a void in Pelzer's life without basketball.
Even when he was barely old enough to hoist a basketball, he was at least attempting to shoot hoops and dribbling around his home town gym of Cumberland-Massena High School, where his dad Steve was the head prep boys basketball coach.
"I always had a ball in my hands, either at practice or at home after practice," Pelzer said. "So I could always handle the ball better than most other players, and that's probably why I wound up a point guard. That, and the fact that I wasn't real tall."
At Cumberland-Massena, near Atlantic, Pelzer was a three year starter and guided the team to the state tournament during his sophomore year. One year, Audubon, led by future BVU post player Scott Weber, knocked Cumberland-Massena out in the region tournament.
Last season at BVU, Weber and Pelzer were a solid inside-outside punch that led the Beavers to another IIAC title, a 16-2 conference mark and 23-6 overall.
BVU coach Brian Van Haaften often called Pelzer the best point guard in the Iowa Conference last season, and with good reason.
Under the direction of Pelzer in 2003-2004, the Beavers finished first in turnover margin and first in assist to turnover ratio.
Individually, Pelzer finished first in the Iowa Conference in assist to turnover ratio (2.79), third in assists per game (5.10) and seventh in steals per game 1.48).
He was also a big reason BVU led the IIAC in assists during last season.
As a coach, Pelzer seems a natural. His dad was a high school coach, he played under one of the top Division III coaches in the nation in Van Haaften, and most of all, he was a point guard.
"All of that helps," Pelzer said. "In practices at Storm Lake, I find myself doing things that my dad did or that Coach Van Haaften did without even noticing it.
"And being a point guard really helps with coaching. As a point guard, you're used to understanding things like spacing between players and knowing every other guy's position. It gives you a good knowledge of the game."
Pelzer is excited, along with Brennan and the rest of the staff, about the Tornadoes' prospects this coming season.
"I don't think I've ever been around a team that's so talented in terms of size and having good athletes," Pelzer said. "We've got some big kids who are more than just tall, and overall, they and the rest of the guys are very good athletes."
Pelzer says he's also looking forward to coaching his own team, the Tornado JV.
"It's going to be interesting to see how much we improve throughout the season and how hard we play," Pelzer said. "Playing hard on every possession is always a key for any team."
The former BVU point guard also has high hopes for the Beavers in 2004-2005.
"I know they have very high expectations," he said. "I think they'll just continue on with the tradition. The BVU basketball program has just gotten better every year."
This Saturday, Pelzer will be reunited with some of his teammates from last season, during the BVU alumni game.
"I still keep in touch with the rest of the guys," he said. "It's going to be great to see them. We're all getting a little older, but we aren't quite balding yet."