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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 25 2013

Zastrow transitions into leadership role

Fargo - The rebound caromed into the corner, where North Dakota State guard Nate Zastrow grabbed it and proceeded to drain a 3-point shot with 5 seconds left in regulation. It was a key shot that would eventually sink South Dakota State in a two-overtime loss.

Zastrow was on fire that night, scoring 20 points and making key plays down the stretch.

“That was my most memorable game,” he said. “I’ll never forget that game.”

He was a freshman then and his career has taken some twists since. Now a senior, he’s assumed a different role than the guard who beat the Jackrabbits three years ago.

Zastrow will come off the bench when the Bison and SDSU square off at 2 p.m. today at Frost Arena. He’s a team captain and a leader of the team, but that’s more off the court than on. He’s averaging 1.8 points and 8.5 minutes a game compared to 3.7 points and 14.2 minutes as a freshman.

And he’s fine with it, mainly because the team is 16-4 and contending for a Summit League regular-season title.

“Obviously, it’s not the dream situation playing-time wise, but I’ve accepted my role and I love it,” he said.

There was never a doubt he would accept it, said head coach Saul Phillips. A chunk of why he’s not playing as much this year compared to his freshman season is the emergence of point guard Lawrence Alexander, who was the Summit League’s Newcomer of the Year last year.

“He’s been nothing but supportive and a great teammate to L.A.,” Phillips said. “Life doesn’t always work out like you plan it, and how you handle it is who you are.”

Zastrow may be the team’s only senior, but that doesn’t mean basketball is going to end when this season ends. Phillips said Zastrow has a “brilliant basketball mind” and it’s a good bet he could end up being a Bison assistant.

Phillips calls it having a high basketball IQ.

“A lot of guys see the game through the eyes of their matchup,” he said. “The basketball mind sees more of the five-on-five stuff. Nate is playing chess at times out there when other people are playing checkers. He just sees more.”

Zastrow said he tries not to think of this season being his last as a player, especially with the season heading into February. With a foot injury to Taylor Braun, he may be counted on for more production, especially as a backup to Alexander.

He came to NDSU in the same recruiting class as Braun, guard Mike Felt and center Jordan Aaberg, The other three all redshirted and are juniors.

“I really don’t think about me being the only senior considering I’ve been here with those guys since the start,” Zastrow said. “It’s been a pretty dream season so far, and it’s gone about as well as I could have expected.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia