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Rustler player coaching AAU hoops this spring

Apr 19, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

A basketball player at Central Wyoming College has been sharing his sports skills with Riverton sophomores this year as the coach of an Amateur Athletic Association team.

Second-year CWC student Ryan Nemelka said he was hesitant about the job at first, but he decided to step out of his "comfort zone" in order to give back to his community.

"And I'm glad I did," he said. "That's kind of how you build character."

He said he was particularly inspired by the makeup of the AAU team, which includes many American Indian students.

"That caught my attention," Nemelka told the CWC Board of Trustees this week.

He said he has seen a lot of local native teens playing basketball on open courts throughout the city, and their passion for the sport reminded him of his time in high school.

"They love the game, and it's so cool to see that," he said. "I grew up just like that, playing (at) every opportunity I got. So I got to thinking, 'Absolutely, that would be fun to share my knowledge with them.'"

Nemelka thinks the boys have benefitted from having a younger coach with a lot of energy who also can act as a mentor.

"I might not be the best X and O coach - it's my first time coaching," he said. "But it's positive for them as they're growing from boys to men."

He tries to incorporate life lessons into practices and games, likening the boys' bond as a team to their relationships with their families.

"You have four guys on defense, (and) that's kind of like your family," he said. "If that one guy is the weak link and does something wrong ... you're not going to have the income to feed your whole family."

The team is made up of nine students, four of whom stood out as key players this season. They practice three times a week and travel throughout the state and region for basketball games.

Last year, Nemelka said the group only won two games during the season. This year, however, they have beaten five teams so far and are looking forward to three more tournaments.

"It's good to see," Nemelka said. "One of my favorite things about coaching them is seeing their improvement."

Last weekend, for example, the boys participated in a tournament at Fort Washakie, and Nemelka said they were overjoyed when they won one of their games after a last-second free throw.

"They came off the court just yelling," Nemelka said with a laugh. "I was trying to keep myself composed. (It was good) to see them that happy."

He feels the same way about his future. Nemelka is a nursing student at CWC who recently completed 100 clinical hours at a local hospital. He said the experience made him realize how much he enjoys helping people.

"Just the little things I did - getting someone water, having them say thank you to me - I don't know why, but that made me feel so good," Nemelka said. "It was such a fulfillment."

He was recognized by the CWC Student Senate this month for his work in the community.

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Rustlers, CWC