SIGOURNEY – Andy Harter and his wife have hosted seven foreign-exchange students over the years.
“I’ve been asked ‘Why don’t you ever get a basketball player?’” the Sigourney girls’ coach and former boys’ coach said. “This time we got lucky.”
Not only did Harter get a basketball player, he got a great one in Vaclav Bujnoch.
“V,” as he is known, arrived in Sigourney last year from his native Czech Republic. He did an official year-long foreign exchange but wanted to stay in town, school and on the basketball floor in order to better earn an opportunity to play college basketball in the United States.
Harter figured out a way to get Bujnoch a different visa that would keep him here and eligible to play another season. The 6-foot-7 senior averages a double-double of 21.5 points and 10.2 rebounds for the Savages, who are 11-2 and winners of eight in a row.
“He’s a typical European player in a lot of ways,” said Sigourney Coach Mitch Eslick. “He has really improved his game all around. He plays inside, then he still can step out and hit the 3-pointer. He just does everything for us: scores, rebounds, assists. He has learned how to take games over at the end. Sometimes I’ll just sit back on the bench just to watch him.”
Eslick said he had no idea how good a player Bujnoch was until seeing him shoot for the first time. “V” played club basketball back home in Ostrava, Czech Republic, and it was simply a random deal how he was chosen to come to Sigourney.
“I was a little scared at first,” he said. “Sigourney is kind of a small town. I live in a small town (in the Czech Republic), but five minutes away is a city the size of Des Moines. I was scared I’d be a little bored. But it’s good.”
Bujnoch has learned to speak fluent English.
“Speaking it was hard for me,” he said. “I could always listen and understand everything that was said, but I had a hard time speaking. A year ago, I could not have had this conversation with you.”
“V” said he has gotten recruiting attention from several Division II and III schools and junior colleges. Division I Idaho State also has sent him a letter.
He stayed in the States over the summer and played AAU basketball with the Iowa Barnstormers. Eslick said he was a tad concerned when Bujnoch went home over Christmas to spend time with his family, but he had no issues getting back into the country.
“As much as he has improved as a basketball player, his English and getting used to being in America has improved just as much,” Eslick said. “He’s just one of our kids now.”
Around the hoop
– Independence ended a 32-game losing streak last Friday night with a 56-55 win at Clear Creek-Amana. The Mustangs’ previous win was January 18, 2011 against Waterloo Columbus, 38-35.
Indee got a team-high 14 points from Michael Fischels.
– Lone Tree beat up rival Iowa Mennonite for the second time this season, 72-48, last week to further justify its lofty No. 3 ranking in Class 1A. The Lions beat IMS, 72-54, in late November.
Those are IMS’ lone defeats. Lone Tree’s Bryan Forbes ranks sixth in the state with a 24.4 scoring average.