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Monday, May 2, 2016

Boys basketball program soaring in Alta

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Former BVU standout Bissen a valuable asset to Alta BB

Randy Bissen hasn't missed a beat in transitioning from student athlete to teacher-coach.

At this time last year, Bissen, a native of Earling, was among the leaders in the Iowa Conference in scoring, rebounding and field goal percentage as a starting post player for the Buena Vista University basketball team.

These days, the 6-foot-6 Bissen is still showing off some fancy moves, but now he's teaching them as coach of the Alta High freshman boys team.

The Alta freshmen are undefeated so far in 13 games, and though Bissen toils daily in the dank confines of the Alta High gym, he says he's enjoying his first taste of life as a teacher and basketball coach.

Though just a few months removed from his senior year at BVU, Bissen's been teaching kids basketball since his high school days.

"We used to have basketball camps at Harlan (High School), and when I was on the varsity there, the players served as instructors," Bissen said last week. "I enjoyed teaching kids basketball then, just as I do now."

The experience helped him choose education/coaching as a major at BVU, and Alta school officials jumped at the chance to land Bissen as a teacher and coach in their district.

Alta's varsity boys basketball coach Bart Smith, also a recent BVU grad, says Bissen's been a strong asset to his varsity team as well.

"Randy works well with the kids, and they not only respect him as a coach, but they like playing for him.

"As varsity coach l feel lucky to have an assistant who's played at such a high level," Smith added.

Five years ago as a senior on the Harlan varsity, Bissen led the team to the Class 3A state basketball tournament.

With his height and work ethic, he drew the interest of several colleges, but chose to attend BVU and play under Brian VanHaaften.

Bissen didn't see a lot of playing time for the Beavers his freshman and sophomore years.

According VanHaaften, Bissen had loads of potential when he first arrived on campus, but it needed more than a little fine-tuning.

"Randy wasn't a true, natural talent, and he had to work hard to become as good as he was," VanHaaften said. "He just kept improving every year."

As a senior, Bissen finished second in the Iowa Conference in rebounding, and was among the leaders in scoring and field goal percentage.

Just as importantly, while some college players lose interest or desire to play while sitting on the bench, Bissen was just the opposite. He just kept working harder and getting better.

"It doesn't surprise me that Randy is doing so well as a coach at Alta," VanHaaften said last week. "He has a very steady demeanor, and staying on an even keel is one of his strengths."

Bissen, along with a core group of BVU seniors that included Eric Wiebers, Jordan Campbell, Michael Cameron, Brandon Kies and Reece Viet, led the Beavers to 100-19 mark over four years.

During that stretch, BVU won three Iowa Conference regular season titles, four IIAC playoff titles, and competed in the Division III national tournament four straight years.

Bissen left BVU among the school's leader in a number of career and single-season categories. He tops the list as BVU's career field goal shooter, having hit 55.6 percent of his field goal attempts. He's ninth in career-rebounding, seventh in blocked shots and 32nd in career scoring (401 points).

"It was a great experience to be part of," Bissen said of his years as a BVU player. "It was like one big family, and everyone was pulling for everybody else. There wasn't a lot of selfishness."

Bissen added he hopes to bring those traits to his Alta freshmen.

"It's a good group of kids to work with," Bissen added. "And having come from a college program where you win 100 games in four years also helps. It's like you don't know what it's like to lose."

Bissen added that eventually, he'd like to move on and land a high school or college head coaching job. But he is more than willing to pay his dues. In a sense, he's right back where he started from four years ago as a freshmen at BVU.

"I couldn't have picked a better situation," Bissen said. "There's a lot of talent in our program, and the parents and youth coaches at Alta have prepared the kids very well. It's a great community with a solid basketball tradition."

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