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MSU Beavers practice teamwork on and off the court

First year head coach Matt Murken believes there is more to being a college basketball player than just making baskets.

Along with the privilege of putting on the Beavers' uniform each week, comes a responsibility.

So, among the hours of lifting, practicing and school work, the Minot State men's basketball team gives back to the Minot community.

"That's part of what comes with being a student-athlete," Murken said. "You are generally going to be a little more recognizable than the average student and part of the responsibility is how you carry yourself away from the court and the classroom. You have to make good choices. We are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play a game we enjoy, but I feel you need to use that platform to give back to the community."

Murken has certainly backed up those words since taking over the men's basketball program in July. While Minot State Athletics has always played a significant role in Minot and in northwest North Dakota, this year's men's basketball team has been diligent. Minot State has taken on projects on campus with Homecoming 2012, the back-to-school barbeque and youth basketball camps and off campus with flood clean-up projects at the Roosevelt Park Zoo, Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast and an anti-bullying campaign at local schools.

The men's team even helped out with Christmas light decorations around town this holiday season.

"Man, it was cold for the Christmas lights," joked senior guard Anthony Enriquez. "But doing things like that comes with being an athlete. We did projects at my junior college in Washington, but I think we have done a lot more here, especially because of the flood. Cleaning up those homes hit pretty hard. It was amazing to see the damage water can do and to think those were people's houses, people's homes."

Enriquez believes scheduling the community service pieces into his daily grind of classes, practices, weights and travel has taught him another lesson outside the classroom.

"Time management is difficult, but you learn to get better with it," he said. "The biggest thing for me is to get my homework done early; I try to get it done first."

The time management aspect was difficult at first for freshman guard Dan Yale as well.

"I had no idea how many community projects we would be involved with before I got here," he said. "It's quite a bit of time, but it's a lot of fun too. It's very important for us to be able to give back. We want to show we care about our community and if people see that we are good kids off the court, which will create interest our team on the court."

The major flood the area experienced had given the team multiple opportunities to help out and the Zoo project has been one of the favorites of the team.

"We went out to the zoo a couple times," Yale said. "It was a lot of fun working to get it back and to be able to interact with the animals at the zoo. Chris East had an interesting time with - I think a bobcat - that was pretty funny. That was a good project for us."

Both Enriquez and Yale prefer the engagement projects to the manual labor assignments, but feel getting out to the community either way is important.

"I really like working with the kids, like at the camps and talking at the schools," Yale said. "That is really important for me."

"I am kind of a people person," Enriquez added. "The manual labor is there, but I like talking to people. Coming from Washington, I didn't know much about Minot; it was a big change for me. But now I feel like it's a second home and it is a really good change. I feel like I kind of know the place now and a lot of that has to do with getting out to these projects and getting to know the people."

For a first-year head coach, getting to the community has been important for Murken as well as his team.

"We know to be successful, we have to have as many people be familiar with us as possible," he said. "We want to make some new friends if we can and show that we have more to offer than to just play basketball. Our guys enjoy these projects, and, yeah, it takes time, but it's also fun to be around people in the community."

The team will not have as much time during the season as Minot State plays double headers from now to early March, but will continue to be available for as much as they can be.

"We want to get more involved in the local schools," Murken said. "We are gone a bit now from Thursday-Sunday, so it slows down, but we want people to call me and ask about projects. We are always looking for opportunities to give back."