By Rob LaPlante
Crow River News Sports
Theo Rothstein set a personal goal prior to his senior season playing basketball for the St. Cloud State University men’s basketball team.
It only took the former St. Michael-Albertville standout a total of one week to achieve his mission.
“I told myself going into the year that I wanted to win the NSIC (Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference) Player of the Week honor at least once in my college career,” said Rothstein, who scored 21 and 23 points, leading the Huskies to two separate wins at the Florida Classic to open the season. “Boom, out of the gate I accomplished my goal in one week. I guess I’ll have to set a new goal now.”
After sitting out last season as a medical redshirt, Rothstein credits his health and expanded scoring role under SCSU head coach Kevin Schlagel as the biggest reasons for his early success. In eight games, he has nearly doubled his scoring from his junior season, averaging 17.8 points per game in the Huskies’ 8-1 start.
“My sophomore year we went to the Final Four, I was a defensive stopper,” Rothstein said. “We had Matt Schneck and Taylor Witt scoring. Whether it’s high school or college, each year you grow into a new role and this year I’m looked at to score.”
Scoring never took a back seat in his high school days. Immediately as a freshman, Rothstein was asked to be a scorer on a young, but up and coming squad. By his junior year, he helped lead the Knights to their first ever state tournament appearance and backed that up with another trip to the Target Center his senior season.
Before his Knights career had ended, Rothstein finished second among all time STMA players in career scoring with 1,263 points. Only Matt Spaeth’s 1,359 career total is higher.
“From what I heard, Spaeth could have been a Division-I basketball player too,” Rothstein said. “I battled some injuries my junior and senior year in high school, otherwise I probably would have broken his scoring record.”
“He’s telling the truth. He would have broken that record had he not had the ankle and knee injuries,” said STMA head coach Tim Anfenson. “He was an electric player who could really get off the ground. He had several games where he had three or four dunks in a game. He played some as a freshman and was a key figure as a sophomore and just kept getting better. It’s been fun to see him progress.”
Besides getting to the state tournament twice in high school, Rothstein noted a non-basketball moment as one of his favorite sports memories.
In 2007, he was part of the STMA football team that upset Becker 14-7 in the Class 4A, Section playoffs held at Husky Stadium. Rothstein finished that season with 486 yards receiving and scored six touchdowns.
“That was a pretty good thrill,” Rothstein said. “To beat Becker for the first time and go to state was one of my biggest memories.”
In his fifth year at SCSU, Rothstein already has enough credits to earn his degree in sports medicine. Being a red-shirt senior, he decided to take up a minor in both coaching and psychology.
Rothstein lists the 2009-10 Final Four run as his greatest college moment. Ironically, it was an exhibition game the Huskies played in the season opener this year that was also high on his list.
On Nov. 2, the Huskies played their first ever game against Michigan State at East Lansing, Mich. Rotshtein collected 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 62-49 loss to the Spartans, who play Division-I basketball in the Big Ten Conference.
“That was a blessing to play in that game,” Rothstein said. “I’ve never played in front of that many fans before. Their student section was loud and the entire experience was just unreal.”
Rothstein is hoping he can pave the way in a rich family history of basketball talent. Carly graduated from STMA in 2010 and finished 12th all-time in scoring playing for the Knights. She is currently a manager of the University of Minnesota-Crookston women’s team, where she is sitting out her junior season due to injuries.
Theo’s younger brother, Trevor, is a sophomore on the current STMA boys’ basketball team and already is playing a significant role this season.
“(Trevor) is always trying to compare himself to me,” said Theo with a chuckle. “I like to give him crap. But he’s a good kid and he’s definitely got a better outside shot than I did at his age.”
“He’s had to change his roles at St. Cloud,” Anfenson said. “He’s been a team guy and now they are asking him to score and now he’s doing that. It’s really exciting and I’m happy for Theo.”