CBS’s Bill Raftery thought South Dakota State University (NOT San Diego State) had only one senior on their basketball team this year. Most of the media only talked about one senior. But the Jackrabbits had TWO seniors. One will be playing in the NBA next year. The other will be preparing for Medical School. Everybody knows Nate Wolters. But do you know Tony Fiegen?
How Smart is Tony Fiegen?
Who needs to play in the NBA when you have the brains to be a doctor? This May, Fiegen received a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a specialization in Pre-Medicine. In June, Fiegen will begin working at the Sanford Heart Hospital in Sioux Falls. He will prepare for the MCAT and begin applying for medical schools this summer. When asked what schools he plans on applying to, he does not provide specific answers. The only college he named was USD. Imagine that. Would an SDSU basketball player actually go to school at archrival USD? Fiegen would not have a problem with it. He did consider playing overseas, but decided a better job at the Heart Hospital and Medical School would be the best road to travel. When asked about the correlation between basketball and academics, Fiegen responded, “It’s hard for me to try really hard in one thing, and then not try as hard, or hard at all in another thing … Academics has always been super important.”
Tony Fiegen’s Generosity
Fiegen recently spent a week in Haiti with much of the SDSU basketball team, coaching staff, and boosters. The mission trip was part of the Samaritan’s Feet and Feed the Hunger programs. While on the trip, Fiegen and the others washed feet and provided shoes for underprivileged children and families, and they also visited orphanages to feed the hungry. Although some private donations were used, the players raised the majority of the money through individual fundraising. Tony said about the kids in Haiti: “They were just starving for love, so they got really attached very quickly, and it was just a lot of fun playing with them.” To recap, Tony Fiegen left for Haiti less than a week after graduating college. While most college kids are still celebrating, Fiegen decided to help others.
Fiegen on Wolters
Nate Wolters will likely be taken in late June in the NBA draft. (See our comparison Statographic vs. Trey Burke.) But Fiegen couldn’t be any happier for him. When asked for a player comparison to Wolters, Fiegen did not provide a specific answer. Steve Nash, Goran Dragic, and Jason Kidd were players that Tony remembered the media mentioning. Fiegen said Wolter’s style is so unique that it takes a mix of players to come up with a comparison. While spending his entire career in Wolter’s shadow, Fiegen didn’t blink. He continued to be the hustling, hard working, undersized big man who did all the little things for the benefit of the team. He didn’t want accolades and didn’t want recognition. On the basketball floor, he just wanted to do whatever it took to win. When I tried to get Fiegen to take some credit and admit to being humble, he just threw it back at Wolters. He said about Wolters, “He is so humble. He actually pushed a lot of credit off of his shoulders and onto our plates … , so I actually thought we received our fair share of credit. It never bothered me, and I can guarantee it never bothered my teammates either”
Off the basketball floor, Fiegen knows there is much more to life than basketball. His faith ruled above academics, which ruled above basketball. You can often see Fiegen at the Newman Center on Sundays on SDSU’s campus. In regard to his faith, he has been watching his Aunt Patty battle cancer for 16 years. He sees her battle and knows that nothing else compares. He admires her faith and positive attitude throughout the fight. He has used his faith to understand that these things happen for a reason. After watching his Aunt Patty suffer, Fiegen said, “No test, no basketball game, no matter how it turns out, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t mater as much as you think.” SDSU basketball may be number one in some peoples’ hearts, but faith is number one in Tony Fiegen’s heart.
SDSU basketball will always be remembered for Nate Wolters. But don’t forget about the Madison, South Dakota, boy who committed to SDSU as a high school sophomore (along with Chad White). You will probably see him in a local gym near you, but more importantly, he might just be taking care of our kids some day.
Random Fiegen Facts
Player he modeled his basketball game after: DeJuan Blair, C San Antonio Spurs
Best athlete he played against in AAU: Michael Floyd, WR Arizona Cardinals
10 years from now: graduated from Medical School with a wife and children
Favorite Bible verse: Matthew Ch. 6: 31-34: “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ … But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
Message for the youth: “Set your goals high and work for them, because if you set your goals where they should be, it’s going to require a lot of hard work. And even if you don’t achieve them, it shows longevity, and it shows commitment. And those are both things you need for the rest of your life,”
SDSU basketball weightlifting: power clean record holder and Strength and Conditioning All-American
Favorite part about SDSU basketball: relationships with coaching staff, teammates, family, and new friends
Toughest part about SDSU basketball: balancing academics and athletics
Key to continued success at SDSU: getting over the hump of making the NCAA tournament
SDSU’s strength next year: experience
Tomorrow, May 24th is Tony Fiegen Day. Use #TonyFiegenDay or tweet @TonyFiegen and show him some love!