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Jeff Kolpack, Published February 26 2014

Farming work ethic plays big role in life of NDSU's Bjorklund

Fargo - The Dale and Tracie Bjorklund farm near Arlington, Minn., is 2,400 acres of mainly corn, soybeans and livestock. You don’t punch in at 8 a.m. and go home for dinner at 5 p.m. very often.

Especially in the fall, when it’s time to harvest. Last fall, to help, son Marshall Bjorklund left Fargo around 6 p.m. and got to the farm 255 miles and four hours later, where he immediately went to work until 2 a.m.

He got a few hours of sleep, helped the next day before getting back in his car and driving back to Fargo. He made it in time for basketball practice at 7 p.m.

That’s North Dakota State basketball practice.

“He’s getting done what needs to be done,” Dale said. “Living on a farm, there’s a lot of work to be done and he was always expected to do it.”

The second-leading Division I shooter in the country in field-goal percentage isn’t your conventional AAU-bred, all-basketball-all-the-time player. In many ways, he’s agriculture first and athlete second.

He picked NDSU because of its agricultural curriculum, not so much because of the athletic department. He’s tough as a decades-old tractor that’s still running and has never shown one ounce of mental weakness.

“He’s got all kinds of stuff, injuries, that people don’t hear about, and you can’t tell,” said senior guard Taylor Braun. “Marshall is a bruiser.”

Heading into tonight’s game against South Dakota – where a win would give NDSU the outright Summit League title – Bjorklund has either been leading the country in field-goal percentage or near the top all year. He’s currently 152 of 239 for 63.6 percent, which is a half-percentage behind Jameel Warney of Stony Brook.

When the season is over, he’ll have to address a chipped tooth, a broken nose and shoulder and knee issues. All of that and he’s still the all-time school leader in games started at 121.

“They’ll have to take me out before I take myself out. That’s for sure,” Bjorklund said. “Everyone on the team has injuries. You just play through it – a mind over matter thing.”

He did it in high school at Sibley East, playing through a torn labrum his junior year. He’s to the point where Bison head coach Saul Phillips said Bjorklund will need to “systematically be put back together when his career is over. You’re going to have a complete Marshall makeover. He’s given everything he has to this program.”

All of that on a 6-foot-8, 250-pound frame – all of his farm kid work ethic – and Bjorklund still has what Phillips called very soft hands. He’s led the country in field-goal percentage because he has good balance, knows how to finish with the ball away from his body to avoid a blocked shot and is gifted with a soft shot.

His older sister, Tera, was also gifted. She played at Colorado and spent one year in the WNBA. Marshall is the youngest of four kids who only played AAU summer basketball one year – after his sophomore year of high school.

“We always needed the boys to help out if they could,” Dale said. “We didn’t start them (in summer ball) in sixth, seventh or eighth grade like a lot of people do at a young age. I decided I was going to wait until they begged to do it. We didn’t start any of that chasing until 10th grade.

“We’re pretty proud of him. He’s not going to a school just to play a sport. It’s important, but the degree is more important to him.”

Phillips still looks back at the pork chops he had at the Bjorklund farm as one of the best-ever meals during a recruiting visit. Marshall started looking into the agricultural system management degree with a minor in crop and weed sciences.

Oh, and the basketball has been pretty good, too.


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