CHADRON, Neb. — Brent Bargen’s passion for basketball is obvious, not to mention audible.
On the court he yells loudly to get his team’s attention, but off the court his words come with purpose. He learned that from growing up in a basketball family.
He was coached by his father, Bob, at Doane College.
Fast forward 20 years and history is repeating itself as Brent coaches his oldest son, Zac, a senior forward for the Chadron State College basketball team.
The path to Zac’s final season as a college basketball player started when he was in middle school in California, when Brent recognized how to approach his son on the court.
“When I first started coaching (Zac) I was really hard on him,” Brent said.
After only a few instances of “getting after him,” Brent understood he had to let Zac form his own identity as a player.
“It’s his game. It’s his life. It’s his career,” Brent said.
Zac noticed Brent took a less vocal approach as he grew older. But his dad never lost his competitive nature.
“Because of that he is a role model to me. Every practice and game you can see how much he wants to win. That makes me want to play as hard possible to make that happen,” he said.
Zac may not be as vocal as his father, but his competitive nature and athletic prowess led him to a successful prep career at Chadron High School. In his final three seasons, the Cardinals played 80 games, losing only eight. As a senior he averaged 15 points and seven rebounds while scoring more than 1,000 points and earning all-state honors.
After graduation, Zac chose to play at Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kan.
“In all honesty I thought I was better than the offers I was receiving. I was caught up in going to Division I and wanted to attend a junior college to make that happen,” Zac said.
After two seasons at Butler, he decided to come home. And, after two stellar seasons for the Eagles, it appears he’s made the correct choice.
“Our relationship is much better now than when I was in high school. I used to think I had all the answers and I did not listen very well,” Zac said. “Playing for my dad can be difficult at times, though. It’s hard knowing that how you play can affect how your dad feels.”
Last year, Zac ended the regular season as the conference’s leading scorer, averaging 18.2 points and was named to the all-conference team. His scoring average was the highest for a CSC men’s basketball player since 2008-09. He also averaged a team-leading 5.8 rebounds.
He’s continued to be the team’s leader this season — he averages 12.1 points and 5.2 rebounds a game — and he’s got the Eagles fighting for a berth in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference tournament late in the season.
His dad couldn’t be more proud.
“It was great for Zac to come to the program to begin with,” Brent said. “But I also get to spend two years with my son that I would have never gotten if he was somewhere else.”