Austin Phyfe on the road to recovery


Austin Phyfe, alongside UNI men’s basketball Head Coach Ben Jacobson, spoke to the media during UNI’s annual men’s basketball media day this past Monday, Oct. 17.

CADEN SHEA, Sports Editor

The UNI basketball season is rapidly approaching day by day. As the Panthers look to take the court by storm, there is one familiar face who will be missing for at least the first half of the season: senior center Austin Phyfe. Phyfe has been a mainstay of the team for years and possesses accolades such as a former spot on the Missouri Valley Conference All-Conference team. Fortunately, the big man is optimistic about his future on the team despite being diagnosed with blood clots in his lung last July.

Phyfe was given blood thinners for these clots which have greatly improved his state of wellbeing since the diagnosis. These blood thinners have given him a chance to possibly play again in the sport that he loves. 

“I feel 10 times better than I was feeling before I had these clots removed,” Phyfe said in regards to his recovery. He feels optimistic about his future, especially after a positive update that he received at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Phyfe’s biggest joy in this appointment was the news that he would most likely live a happy and normal life despite his current ailments. 

Despite his drastic improvements, Phyfe is still not cleared to compete on the basketball court quite yet. The closest estimate for his return is two to three months, if at all. Coach Ben Jacobson expects Phyfe to have a “tremendous impact on the team” despite what may happen on this journey. Phyfe still anticipates to be a crucial part of the team in a much different role than he was in previous years: player-coach. 

Phyfe has taken a hands-on approach to his involvement with the team on the road to recovery by becoming more involved with the technical side of the game than he ever has before. Phyfe has been helping out in any possible way he can by working with everyone from coaches to staff to players. He has been especially helpful towards the players who will be stepping into his previous role in the near future. This means that guys like Cole Henry and James Betz are getting a lot of one-on-one attention and help from a guy who has a veteran presence on the team who also understands what it is like to be in their shoes. 

Throughout this journey the one thing that is at the top of everyone’s priority list is Phyfe’s health. Coaches and staff do not care if he never plays again as a college athlete as long as his health is the utmost priority at all times. It is clear to all involved that basketball is not more important than a happy and healthy life and they have kept that their motto during this situation. “Basketball. It’s what these guys do. It’s not who they are,” Coach Jacobson said. 

One of the most comforting things for Phyfe has been the consistent presence of Coach Jacobson along this journey. Phyfe has said that Coach Jacobson was with him every step of the way from doctor’s appointments to everything in between. He stated that Coach Jacobson and the coaching staff and their commitment to each and every player was a huge factor in his choice to play at UNI. 

No matter what happens it is clear that Phyfe will overcome whatever obstacles lie in front of him. It is clear that this man means a lot to the entire team and staff and that he will continue to represent the Panther spirit no matter what happens in the future. The optimism is still there and hopefully we will see Phyfe on the court once again in no time.