Credits faith for ‘huge impact’ on life on & off court
By Jill Kruse
Witness Editorial Assistant
WAVERLY — Waverly-Shell Rock High School senior Austin Phyfe is a talented athlete who will play basketball next year for the University of Northern Iowa, but it’s for the way he lives his life off the court that this young man has recently been recognized.
Eighteen-year-old Phyfe, a parishioner of St. Mary Parish in Waverly, received the Iowa Bankers Association’s 2017 Student Athlete Achievement Award during this year’s boys’ Class 3A Iowa high school state basketball tournament at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines. He was presented with a plaque prior to the tournament’s championship game on March 11.
Phyfe was nominated for the award by his Waverly-Shell Rock coach, Nate Steege. A committee chose Phyfe from among other nominees because of his academic achievements and his strong sportsmanship and leadership skills.
“This award meant a lot to me,” Phyfe said, “because it is something that awards you for not just your basketball skills, but lets you know that you are doing a good job in life and have grown up and been raised the right way and that people are seeing that.”
The day after he was honored with the character award at the Iowa state basketball tournament, Phyfe also received special recognition from his parish during the Sunday morning liturgy. Father David Schatz, the pastor at St. Mary Parish, made an announcement shortly before the final hymn was sung that day, congratulating Phyfe on his award. Parishioners gave him a round of applause.
Father Schatz said he is impressed by Phyfe, who he calls a “great leader” one who “lives his Catholic faith by example.” He commends the young man for regularly making Sunday morning Mass a priority, even, for instance, when coming back late the night before from the Iowa state basketball tournament.
Phyfe is a 6-foot-9 power forward/center who was one of the top recruits in the state of Iowa when UNI’s head men’s basketball coach, Ben Jacobson, announced in November that he had signed a National Letter-of-Intent to play for the Panthers.
“I grew up around basketball and developed a love for it as I grew older,” said Phyfe, whose been playing the sport since he was in the third grade.
“I love the competiveness and competition while playing basketball, but my favorite part would have to be the friendships developed along the way and meeting new people,” he said.
During his high school basketball career, Phyfe, the son of Steve and Lisa Phyfe of Waverly, wore the number 50 on the back of his jersey, “because that is what my dad used to wear,” he said. His father, Steve, an accomplished basketball player himself, played for the UNI Panthers from 1987-90.
The younger Phyfe said while he attends UNI he plans to major in elementary education and also minor in special education.
As he prepares to graduate from high school next month and head off to Cedar Falls for college, Phyfe credits his faith for getting him to where he is at this point in his life.
“Faith has definitely played a huge role in my life. It has impacted me in so many ways and made me a much better person,” Phyfe said. “When growing up, I just went to church to go with my family, but once I started to get into confirmation, I really started to try and go deeper in my faith, and I think that has made a huge impact on my life and how I act.”
And “on the court,” he said, “I think my faith has impacted me and just helped push me to be the best I can be.”
Austin Phyfe (left) was presented with the character award March 11. With him is John Rigler, president of State Bank. A committee of the Iowa Bankers Association selected Phyfe as the recipient of the award. (Contributed photo)