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Katarina Rothhorn
Katarina Rothhorn
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The first message I ever sent from my Northern Michigan University sanctioned email was to the editor-in-chief of the North Wind asking if there was any way I could join the staff. Classes hadn't even...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

On and off the court, senior leads Wildcats

Senior guard Tyler Kazmierkoski does not want to be remembered by the rest of the NMU men’s basketball team as a three point shooter, or a go-to-scorer, but simply as a leader, in every possible way.

“I hope I showed them that basketball is important, but the team aspect of keeping everybody happy and managing personalities is just as important,” he said. “You can have all the talent in the world, but if you’re not clicking and firing on the same page, it doesn’t mean anything.”

Kazmierkoski, who is third on the Wildcats in minutes and points this year, will play in his final series this weekend. He said even though the team isn’t where he hoped it would be record-wise (NMU is 11-14 overall, 6-14 GLIAC), he realizes that winning isn’t everything.

“Obviously you don’t expect the record to be like that and you always think better of it,” he said. “But I have gained so much and learned so much from the experience this year.”

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Kazmierkoski’s role on this year’s team was to be exactly that, a senior and a leader, and junior guard Chirs Warner said he answered that call.

“He has leadership and he has experience, and he is a guy you go to and consult with at certain situations,” Warner said. “As a senior, we expected him to play a lot of minutes and we expected him to do a lot of things as a senior and as a leader.”

Head coach Dean Ellis said in the four years Kazmierkoski has been with NMU, he has grown to be an example of what is expected of his athletes on the court and in the classroom.

“He is just a competitor out on the court, and he battles every second he can while he is out there,” Ellis said. “And he is a major student. He has a 3.9-plus with his GPA, and he gets all A’s all the time.”

The work on and off the court is where Kazmierkoski hopes his teammates see his leadership.

“I think that I can show them that hard work and determination really does play off,” Kazmierkoski said. “And just enjoy it while you can while you’re here, because it goes by fast.”

One teammate Kazmierkoski has influenced is freshman point guard Raymont McElroy.

“When I am a senior, I want freshmen and sophomores to look at me the way I look up to (Tyler),” McElroy said. “And the thing I want to be most like him, is I want to be a leader like him, honestly.”

McElroy and junior guard Marc Renelique are the two leading scorers on the team, ahead of Kazmierkoski. McElroy said even though Kazmierkoski was the leading scorer last season, he didn’t speak out about his position on the team this year.

“He has never complained, and he never said, ‘Coach I am not getting the ball and Ray is only a freshman,'” McElroy said. “He has no ego and if we’re winning and playing our best, that is all he cares about.”

But wins have been hard to come by this year, and even if the ‘Cats win their last two games on the road this weekend (against Saginaw Valley State on Thursday and Lake Superior on Saturday), they will still fall short of making the league playoffs. McElroy said this is hard for his team to deal with this because he knows guys like Kazmierkoski deserve to play at that level.

“I think that it brings us more together, but I think at the same time it hurts a lot especially with my personal relationship with (Tyler),” McElroy said. “Because ever since I’ve been here he took me underneath his wing and showed me everything good and bad off the court and on the court.”

Some examples Kazmierkoski has shown on and off the court are earning GLIAC player of the week earlier this month for averaging 23 points in two games, and making the Dean’s List every semester at NMU.

Looking back, Kazmierkoski said he has accomplished everything he wanted to during his career at Northern.

“The experiences I had this year, I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” he said. “That goes for my whole career, some of the best friends I have made have been from this team, and things like that – you really can’t put a price on.”

McElroy said the friendship between him and Kazmierkoski is where he made his impact on him as a leader. McElroy added that it was the little things like playing a game of one-on-one at practice where his senior leadership showed through.

“(Tyler) is a little too strong in the post and then we play H-O-R-S-E and he just kills me, because he can shoot threes from almost half court and knock them down continuously. It is unbelievable,” McElroy said. “But, I’m going to miss him. Like I said, I am just going to miss him and next year is not going to be easy without him.”

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