Posted on August 15, 2011 at 1:52 PM
Monday, Aug 15 at 2:11 PM
When 7-foot-1 backup center Ian Markolf quit the University of Wisconsin basketball team after his sophomore season in 2010, he ruled out transferring to another school to make a fresh start.
Figuring his career was over, the 2008 Churchill High School graduate stayed at UW and attended classes at the Madison campus throughout the 2010-11 school year.
But, as Markolf discovered, walking away from the game was more difficult than he thought it would be.
“Looking to get back to Texas” and missing basketball, Markolf called University of the Incarnate Word men’s coach Ken Burmeister and asked him about the possibility of jump-starting his career with the Cardinals.
Burmeister, who saw Markolf grow up while living in the same neighborhood as his family, welcomed him with open arms.
After all, it’s not every day that a 7-foot-1, 265-pound center with Division I experience, limited as Markolf’s was at Wisconsin, comes knocking at the door of a Division II school.
Markolf already has enrolled at UIW, which plays in the Lone Star Conference, and will start classes when the fall semester begins Aug. 22.
“I just got the itch to play basketball and Incarnate Word seemed like the perfect fit for me,” Markolf said. “I grew up playing with some of the guys on the team, and I started talking to them this spring about maybe transferring here.
“It turned out to be a pretty simple process. Incarnate Word has a great academic program, and I think I’ll have a chance at some great business opportunities when I graduate. I’m also going to get the chance to play basketball with a great group of guys.”
Markolf, who is majoring in business, has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
Markolf rarely got off bench at Wisconsin
Although he scored only two points and played a total of only eight minutes in two seasons at UW, Markolf expressed confidence that he’ll be able to help the Cardinals.
“I’ve been playing with some of the guys this summer, and had some pretty good competition,” Markolf said. “Right now, I’m feeling good. I’m just continuing to work on my game and I think it’s coming along. Obviously, I’m a little rusty because I haven’t played competitively in a while.
“I’m extremely excited. I think it’s going to be an exciting season. I’ll have a chance to get out and play in front of my family and friends, and all of my coaches. I think I have a chance to do some pretty good things on the court.”
Burmeister said NCAA rules prohibit him from commenting on Markolf until he begins classes.
Markolf said he is looking forward to playing for Burmeister, who has coached at UIW for five seasons.
“His passion is one of the things you notice about him,” Markolf said. “It’s hard to be lackadaisical and in a bad mood when you’re around Coach B. He’s also a student of the game, and helps you pick up the little things about it.”
Markolf played basketball at Churchill with UIW forward Jordan Roddy, and was an AAU teammate of two other Cards players, point guard Daryl Ward and forward Chris Johnson, both Brackenridge graduates.
“I feel good about him being here,” Johnson said. “It’s really a blessing to have him come back home and play with us. I’m looking forward to playing with him.”
Ward said Markolf is working hard to get his timing on the court back.
“Even though he’s a little rusty, you can see he’s still got it,” Ward said. “He still has his skill set. By the time we start official practice in October, he should be back to where he was. I’m very glad he’s here. It’s very rare to play with somebody that big at this level.”
Markolf almost 7-footer at Churchill
Markolf’s height has made him a center of attention longer than he can remember. He was 6 feet tall by the time he was in the fourth grade, and stood 6-11 when he walked on the Churchill campus as a freshman in 2004.
His height, if not his raw skills, drew the interest of college recruiters from throughout the country. In the end, he chose Wisconsin over Baylor and Texas A&M.
“It was a wild experience, and a great experience,” to play at Wisconsin, Markolf said. “It was a completely different atmosphere than anything I had experienced. You go to places like Michigan State and Ohio State and things get a little crazy.”
Markolf said he left UW on good terms.
“I think it was more a combination of things,” he said, referring to why he quit. “It was nothing against the coaches. It just didn’t seem like the right fit for me.”
Markolf was born in Colorado Springs, Colo., but was raised in San Antonio. He grew up “about two blocks” from where Burmeister and his family live.
“I’ve known Coach B. for a long time,” Markolf said.