Eric Peterson, Published December 29 2013
NDSU's Fab Four five years later
FARGO – It has been nearly five years since Ben Woodside hit the shot that made North Dakota State men’s basketball history.
“I still think about it and still get chills thinking about it,” said Lucas Moormann, who now lives in Bismarck.
Woodside, Moormann, Mike Nelson and Brett Winkelman were often referred to as the Fab Four in their playing days at NDSU. In their senior season, they led the Bison to the NCAA Division I tournament.
Those four only had one shot at the “Big Dance,” with 2008-09 being the first season NDSU was eligible for the NCAA tournament – and they delivered.
“It felt our storybook ending had been written and we were living it out,” said Winkelman, who lives and works in Fargo.
These days, Moormann is a seventh-grade math teacher at Simle Middle School and an assistant boys basketball coach at Bismarck Century.
Nelson lives in Maple Grove, Minn., and works for H & H Sales, selling mechanical parts to large equipment manufacturers.
Winkelman is a plant manager for Fargo Assembly Company. Woodside is still playing basketball for a professional team in Cremona, Italy.
“We definitely keep in contact,” Winkelman said. “That group was such a tight-knit group. Those are bonds for a lifetime. We are all in each other’s wedding.”
Nelson is the only one of the Fab Four who is not yet married. He plans to get married next summer.
“What we went through is something I will cherish and remember forever,” said Nelson, who played pro basketball for a couple of years after he graduated from NDSU.
Winkelman played pro basketball overseas for a few years after his time with the Bison.
Woodside has played in a variety of pro leagues in France, Slovenia, Georgia, Turkey and Italy since he left NDSU.
However, Woodside still holds that Bison team close to his heart.
“We cared about each other, and we wanted to win for each other,” Woodside said. “It was like a bunch of brothers playing for the ultimate goal in making the NCAA tournament.”
Woodside sank a 15-foot jumper with four seconds remaining on that March night in 2009 in Sioux Falls, S.D. That clutch shot gave the Bison a 66-64 victory against Oakland University for the Summit League tournament title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.
“When I think back to it, all I can think about is the signature wins that we had,” Nelson said.
That senior class played a key role in a 62-55 victory at No. 15 Wisconsin in January 2006, handing the Big Ten Conference power Badgers a rare defeat on their home court.
In December 2006, NDSU earned a 64-60 victory at No. 8-ranked Marquette.
In February 2009, NDSU handed Oral Roberts its first conference home loss since 2005 and earned the outright conference title in the regular season.
“Everybody focuses on the NCAA run. I feel that was the culmination,” said Winkelman. “For me, it was the journey. There were so many great moments we had along the path.”
The Fab Four’s ride ended in the first round of the 2009 NCAA tournament with an 84-74 loss against perennial power Kansas in Minneapolis. Woodside scored 37 points in his final college game.
“To see where NDSU is going today, I really feel privileged that we were part of the initial group to get that going in the basketball program,” said Winkelman.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.