Travis Bledsoe, named DeLaSalle boys' basketball coach.
Travis Bledsoe, a DeLaSalle graduate and most recently head coach at Centennial, has been named to replace his former coach, Dave Thorson, as head of the Islanders’ highly successful boys’ basketball program.
Bledsoe, 29, coached at Centennial, based in Circle Pines, for five seasons, including the last three as leader of the boys’ basketball team. The 2005 Islander graduate was a three-year starter in high school and was named a Mr. Basketball finalist as a senior. He later played at the University of North Dakota, where he was a team captain and scored more than 1,000 points in his career.
“I was shocked because I never thought this could happen,” Bledsoe said Wednesday afternoon after the school announced his hiring. “DeLaSalle taught me a lot and positioned me to be successful in life. If I can help the next generation of kids the same, it would life fulfilling.”
Bledsoe earned a degree in communications from North Dakota and played professionally for one year in the Czech Republic before returning home to coach in Minnesota. Those experiences gave Bledsoe an understanding of what it takes to be a successful college student-athlete and how to relate to different players. He has coached on the AAU circuit as well and served as a director of Nike basketball camps for youth players.
He twice played in the state tournament under Thorson, who left DeLaSalle after 26 seasons to become an assistant coach at Drake on the staff of Minnesota native Niko Medved. The Islanders, playing in Class 3A, have won the last six state titles playing under Thorson.
Man-to-man defense, 6 a.m. practices and exhaustive scouting of opponents, staples of Thorson’s tenure, won’t change, Bledsoe said. And following a coach who won the past six state titles doesn’t faze Bledsoe.
“One of the reasons why it was easy to want to step into a high-pressure situation was that I grew up on the north side of Minneapolis and there was a lot of pressure to get out of there,” Bledsoe said. “When I went to Centennial, we talked about taking the steps to win the conference, get to the state tournament and win the championship.”
Adam Pribyl, DeLaSalle’s director of student activities, called Bledsoe “a strong teacher, an advocate for the individual skill development of his athletes as well as the personal and spiritual development of young men,’’ in a statement released Wednesday. “He has himself been a stellar high school and collegiate athlete and in that context, fully understands the commitment necessary to achieve excellence.”
Meanwhile, former Gopher basketball player Damian Johnson has been named the head coach at North High School in North St. Paul. He replaces Joe Janquart, who left after five seasons to be the head coach at Lakeville South.
Johnson, 30, played for the Gophers from 2006 to 2010. He played professionally in Japan and Australia and in the NBA Development League.
DAVID LA VAQUE