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Eric Peterson, Published February 26 2013

Novak has been a force on and off the court for Dragons

MOORHEAD – Senior center Alex Novak is a biochemistry major who carries a 3.85 grade-point average and starts for the Minnesota State Moorhead men’s basketball team.

The 6-foot-9 Novak also does cancer cell research in his spare time.

“He has a built-in drive to do well at whatever he does,” said Dragons head coach Chad Walthall. “I think he’s really a leader in everything he does.”

Novak has developed into a force on the court and in the classroom at MSUM.

He was recently named to the Capitol One Academic All-America Division II first team.

Novak is the program’s career leader in blocked shots (220) and rebounds (1,028). He is the second player in program history to reach 1,000 points (1,186) and 1,000 rebounds in a career.

Novak is averaging 13.1 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game in his final season with MSUM, which hosts Southwest Minnesota State at 8 tonight in the first round of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament.

“I’m proud I’ve been able to balance basketball and academics fairly well,” Novak said. “I’m not the best player and I’m not the best student … but I have reached my goals for the most part.”

Novak has been doing cancer cell research since the beginning of his junior year. It’s an extracurricular activity for Novak, who is already balancing the demands of being a full-time student and athlete.

“I’m not at home very often,” said Novak, who is from Oxford, Iowa. “I feel like I’m at the gym or I’m in class or I’m in the lab.”

Walthall calls Novak his “first recruit,” even though Novak was already in the program when Walthall got the Dragons job prior to Novak’s sophomore season.

Walthall said he had to re-recruit Novak, who was pondering transferring to another school after the coaching change.

Walthall, who was an assistant coach at the University of Iowa prior to coming to MSUM, still had his home in Iowa when he took the Dragons post. Coincidentally, he lived about 10 minutes away from the Novak farm.

Walthall visited the Novak home soon after he took the Dragons job. He still remembers sitting at the kitchen table with Novak and his parents, Norman and Lisa.

The trip proved to be a success as Novak decided to remain at MSUM for his final three seasons.

“As a coach, you dream of guys like Alex because they’re talented, but yet you don’t have to coach effort, classroom or anything because he is so driven internally,” said Walthall, who is in his third season.

Senior Eric Olson has been Novak’s roommate for four years. The two also played against each in other in high school.

Olson said Novak has developed into a polished player since he came to MSUM, especially on the defensive end.

“When he first got here, he was about as raw as you could be,” Olson said. “He would jump at everything. Now, he stays down defensively and doesn’t pick up the silly fouls.”

Novak’s career blocked shots total is more than 100 better than No. 2 on the school’s all-time list. Mike Bednarek (1981-86) ranks second with 112.

“He has left a legacy that will be very hard to duplicate,” Walthall said. “He can feel very good about his career here in all sorts of areas. … If I think of Alex Novak, I think of hard worker in every sense. Not just on the basketball court.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com