Being a coach’s son, Nate Bahe knows all about filling roles on a basketball team.
Bahe has seen his responsibility for the Nebraska Wesleyan’s men’s team evolve as the Prairie Wolves’ needs changed at several points during the season. The 6-foot-3 sophomore from Wood River slid into the starting lineup for 12 games early in the season when NWU’s sophomore point guard, Nate Schimonitz, went down with a knee injury.
Bahe moved to the Prairie Wolves’ sixth man when Schimonitz returned, and he hasn’t missed a beat. Bahe averages 10.1 points and 4.1 rebounds a game, giving the high-powered Wesleyan offense six players who average in double-figures.
“I knew it would happen (going back to coming off the bench); Nate’s a great player, one of our best finishers and best shooters,” Bahe said. “There are some advantages coming off bench. I can get a good look at what’s going on defensively before I go in and see what I can take advantage of.”
He’s launched the sneak attack off the bench several times this season. Bahe went off for 26 points against Dubuque and 24 in the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference semifinals against Wartburg. He's shooting 37 percent from beyond the three-point line, 51 percent from the field overall and almost 80 percent from the free-throw line.
“Nate (Bahe) had a good second half of his freshman season and he came back this year and did exactly what I expected from him,” NWU coach Dale Wellman said. “He’s a jack of all trades, so opponents might not take note of him, but there’s been some games where he’s really gone off.”
Wellman’s system emphasizes positionless basketball in which players can fill numerous spots on the floor. Bahe’s father, former Wood River basketball coach David Bahe, had him play all five positions at some point during his high school career, preparing him for the next level.
“I learned a lot about the game from my dad,” Bahe said. “He got on me a lot more than anyone else and made an example out of me a few times, but I was fine with that. We share the same passion for the game, and I’d like to go into coaching and teaching like he did.”
Bahe eventually picked NWU over Hastings, Concordia, Doane, Morningside and Midland.
“I really wanted to be in Lincoln and I like Coach Wellman’s offense and how he runs the program,” Bahe said.
A spot in the third round of the NCAA Division III tournament helps add even more satisfaction to his college choice. NWU (26-3) rolled past Maryville (Tennessee) 94-70 and Aurora (Illinois) 82-61 in the first two rounds last weekend in St. Louis.
That sets up Friday’s showdown at No. 8 Wisconsin-Platteville, the highest-ranked team NWU has faced this season. The Prairie Wolves were in the same four-team pod with No. 4 Washington University last weekend, but Washington was upset by Aurora in the first round.
“People haven’t given us much respect nationally, so we’re excited to finally play a team that’s ranked,” Bahe said. “Team chemistry, that’s what keeps us going. We hang out and love each other. Everyone contributes and everyone knows their role.”
Friday’s game will be a clash of two styles. NWU averages 95.6 points per game, while the Pioneers are giving up just 63.7 a contest, 11th nationally.
“Platteville plays extremely hard-nosed, disciplined defense,” Wellman said. “We like to play fast, and they’ll slow it down with their half-court motion offense. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”