DWU head coach bounces back after cancer scare

Jason Christiansen knows how to be a fighter.

“It feels good to be back on the court again. I missed my team, I love the sport of basketball so it wasn’t fun that month I was gone,” said Christiansen.

His Dakota Wesleyan Tigers are coming off their first ever NAIA Division II Championship.

“This year I think we’re probably better defensively but our toughness at the end just shows we find ways to win,” said Christiansen.

His battle to win off the court though started in November with his toughest challenge yet.

“When someone gives you that ‘C’ word and tells you you have cancer, you take a step back and you start wondering a lot and thinking about a lot of different things,” said Christiansen.

Christiansen went in for a routine check-up at the doctor’s when they found cancerous tissue during a colonoscopy.

“It was not a good one so my Mayo doctor said it was one of those deals that was like a needle in a haystack is what she described it as, so I was very lucky,” said Christiansen.

He missed three games while undergoing tests at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. while his assistant Celeste Beck continued DWU’s undefeated start to the season. Beck was the first player that Christiansen recruited when becoming the Tigers head coach.

“When Celeste took over, I knew she’d be fine. I felt bad for her, it was a little pressure on her being undefeated but she did a really good job and and handled it very well,” said Christiansen.

“It definitely does put some things in perspective, even when you think things are going good things will bring you down but it's just been a season that has tested us, but we have definitely come out on top,” said senior guard Rylie Osthus.

Now the winningest coach in program history is healthy and back on the sidelines, ready to conquer his fight on the court saying that toughness resonates to his team as well.

“Just having him there is just comforting to us. It took some toughness to get through it, but we definitely did it and I thought we did really well with it, and now he’s back and everything has calmed down and gone back to normal,” said Osthus.

“For what our kids have been through you know with me having my issues and us having a defending national championship, I think our kids have shown a lot of toughness,” said Christiansen.

Christiansen and the Tigers return home on Sunday to face Midland at the Corn Palace.