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Beyond Bounds: UST's Glue Guy Erik Tengwall's Quite Crafty

Erik Tengwall (Thomas Whisenand/University Of St. Thomas) and Aaron Craft (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
St. Thomas coach John Tauer likens his junior guard Erik Tengwall to Ohio State's Aaron Craft -- both hustle, lead and play unselfishly. (credit: Left - Thomas Whisenand/University Of St. Thomas. Right - Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Pretty sure Erik Tengwall had a better weekend than you did.

The St. Thomas junior's No. 1-ranked basketball team eked out a 63-62 win at home and advanced to an NCAA D-III Elite Eight match up with Williams at noon Friday in Salem, Virginia.

Couple that with the fact it was St. Patrick's Day and Tengwall was set to celebrate his 21st birthday, and well, he articulated the jubilation best.

Every team needs the "it" man, the glue guy – the athlete who may not explode on the stat sheet, but teams can't imagine playing competitively without.

Tengwall, hailing from the woods of Spicer, Minn., is just that for the title-hunting Tommies.

"After last season, coaches wanted us to think about what role we'd play," Tengwall explained. "I was watching Ohio State and Aaron Craft (of Ohio State) stood out to me as a great leader. He wasn't scoring a lot of points, but he was the MVP through leadership. He'd tip passes, hustle, dive on the floor, and create extra possessions."

Erik Tengwall Defense (credit: Thomas Whisenand/University Of St. Thomas)
Tengwall's one of UST's leaders in minutes played and has the Tommies in the Elite Eight. (credit: Thomas Whisenand/University Of St. Thomas)

The 6-foot-1-inch guard averages 6.1 ppg, but is one of the squad leaders in minutes played (23.4 per for a deep Tommie team). He has the team's best assist-to-turnover ratio of nearly 3-1.

The New London-Spicer product was a decorated prep star. He guided his school to state titles in football (2009) and in basketball (2008, 2010), and he tallied 1,344 career points. But it wasn't until he became a Tommie did his game truly mature.

"In high school, the papers would say 'So and so had this many points and assists and rebounds,'" he said. "They never said turnovers, so I would never pay attention to it. But at the collegiate level, that's the biggest thing they highlight here."

From missing one of his biggest fans after his grandfather passed away this season, to grappling with his spaghetti addiction, here are 10 things to know about Tengwall.

1) He followed in John Wall's footsteps – sort of
Winning the national championship (in 2011 as a freshman) was a really cool experience. I remember flying home (on a charter plane) together. I was sitting next to Will DeBerg and the flight attendant said Kentucky has used the same plane, and told me where John Wall sat. I'm a huge fan, so I made sure I got the John Wall seat. I took pictures to make it official.

Erik Tengwall Fishing
Tengwall rarely misses annual Deer Camp with family and friends and feels at home most in the 80 acres outside his Spicer, Minn., home. (credit: Erik Tengwall)

2) Tengwall may thrive in a basketball arena, but he strives to be outdoors
My neighbors have 80 acres of woods. I always grew up hanging in the woods, doing bonfires. I'm a big deer hunter and go every year.
We have Deer Camp and my dad brings a few of his buddies he's known for years. My mom goes out of town, and we have the house to ourselves and have good laughs. It's tradition.
We canoe a lot, too. I live across the street from George Lake – a couple of my brothers and my friends have done the Tour de George and swim across it.
I actually went up to the Boundary Waters, too, with my brother, dad and some friends and did a lot of walleye fishing. It's a great experience.

3) His 2013 Tommies are deeper than the 2011 title team
We have so much talent. We believe that one through 19, everyone on our roster can play. Doesn't matter our starting lineup.

4) Noah Kaiser and Tengwall are lords of N64's NBA Hangtime
Kaiser, my roommate, got me into N64. I grew up with it, but wasn't huge into it right away. But we'll take anyone on in NBA Hangtime.

5) His Facebook profile picture was selected for good reason
A couple weeks ago my grandpa (Jack Woods) passed away. My grandma (Margaret) was having a tough time. She has pretty severe Alzheimer's, but still remembers to tell me "You're the best on the court" and "You're my favorite player." They both have given me so much support.

Erik Tengwall Family
Tengwall's Facebook profile picture features him and his grandmother Margaret Woods, who's battling Alzheimer's, but still tells her grandson, "You're my favorite player." (credit: Erik Tengwall)

6) The marketing major aims to keep sports in his career
I want to get into professional sports marketing. I've always had such a passion for sports, and being able to apply that to the real world would be great. I'd love to work for any professional sports team in Minnesota.

7) His chores were real chores
We actually have a wood furnace. We would go to church on Sundays, come home and dad would say, 'Go put on your jeans. We have to cut wood and get ready for winter.' That's where I got the hard work from. It ain't easy on your back.

8) He's got a thing for a popular pasta
I actually just had spaghetti before this interview. I probably eat it three times a week. It's easy to cook with my roommates and it tastes good, too.

9) The country boy likes his inner-city tunes
I love hip-hop and R&B. Chris Brown has been my favorite. Wale and Big Sean, too. Sometimes I get crap from friends for listening to country.

10) And he still hasn't forgotten the goofy Axe commercial a couple years back

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