Kolander enjoys life after U hoops

by Ryan Schuster

Georgetown basketball player Kevin Millen rebounded his own missed shot and put it back up as the game clock moved into single digits of the 1993 NIT title game.
Time seemed to stand still at Madison Square Garden in New York, as the ball rotated in the air.
Finally, the ball struck the rim and careened off. Minnesota center Chad Kolander leapt up and swatted the ball away from Georgetown’s Orthella Harrington. The ball went out of bounds with less then three seconds remaining in the game.
After the Hoyas’ last-ditch alley-oop pass failed, Kolander and the Gophers escaped with a 62-61 victory over Georgetown for the NIT title.
“After the game, I was just thinking about what a great thrill it was to win at Madison Square Garden,” Kolander said. “It was so close that I wasn’t really thinking about anything else that was going on.”
Three-and-a-half years later, Kolander still considers that game to be one of the greatest memories of his life.
He played for the Gophers from 1992 to 1995, helping the team make it into postseason play all four years. Minnesota was 80-41 during Kolander’s career, making it to the NIT tournament twice and the NCAA tournament twice.
“He’s one of the guttiest and hardest-working players that I’ve ever coached,” Gophers men’s basketball coach Clem Haskins said. “He wasn’t a great athlete, but he was an excellent team player and a key to our NIT championship team.”
Even though he has plenty of basketball memories, Kolander is most proud of earning his kinesiology degree from Minnesota in the summer of 1995.
Since Kolander left school, he has settled down in Minneapolis and is now attempting to get a job in pharmaceutical sales.
The 25-year-old still finds the time to play in some pick-up games and has even scrimmaged some local colleges with former-Gopher Jim Shikenjanski.
“I consider myself lucky,” Kolander said. “I don’t think I’d change a thing about college. I worked hard and had fun.”
Kolander scored 737 points and collected 461 rebounds during his stay at Minnesota. He is seventh on the Gophers all-time career blocks list with 75, and is tied with Walter Bond for ninth-place on Minnesota’s all-time career steal list with 104 career thefts.
But statistics alone don’t tell the story of Kolander’s Gophers career.
“A lot of fans don’t see all the little things that go on,” said David Grim, Kolander’s former teammate at Minnesota. “Chad was one of those players that did those little things. Playing defense and setting a pick, that was Chad’s game.”
Kolander played in 123 of the team’s 131 games during his time with the Gophers. He started 73 of them.
Playing hurt and ignoring pain for the benefit of the team were also Kolander trademarks.
“He’s a fierce competitor,” Haskins said. “He played in great pain and fought through injuries.”
In addition to being determined on the court, Kolander was also an excellent defensive post player for Minnesota. He displayed surprising speed and agility for a center.
“Coach always used him as an example in practice on defense,” Grim said. “His toughness on defense helped us.”
During high school, Kolander’s ferocious defense led Owatonna in back-to-back state Class AA championships, and was named Minnesota’s Mr. Basketball as a senior.
He said playing with the Gophers helped him grow up and learn about life. Now the memories help him continue.
“When you first come out of that tunnel and you hear the rouser and the fans cheering — that’s quite a thrill,” Kolander said. “It was always fun at home.”
And like his historic rejection of Harrington in 1993, Kolander hasn’t stopped battling and winning in life. But this time he is armed with fond memories and a degree.