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FREDERICK — Not too many people get a welcome to their new college from elected officials in their town.
Austin Rivera, who signed a college basketball letter of intent to play at Bethany College in Lindsborg, Kan., picked up his first “welcome to school” remarks from former Frederick Mayor Eric Doering.
Doering is a graduate of the school. He and his wife, Jerry, were on the school’s board of directors.
“Coach (Clair) Oleen is excited about Austin,” Doering said. “He watched him over the last year. You’ve achieved several positive things, and that’s a tribute to coach (Larry) Frank and his program. The result is to see kids go on to higher education and, at the same time, be that student-athlete.”
Rivera said the Doerings were the first to introduce him to the campus.
“They asked me to check it out. They said it was a nice town, so I checked it out,” Rivera said. “We were traveling out there with our family and decided to make a visit. Everybody there seemed really nice. They have a perfect program for 3-D animation and graphics. It’s one of the best in the country. Playing basketball and having that type of stuff there? You can’t beat that.”
Rivera had his eyes on Otero Junior College in Lamar and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. But he was happiest communicating with the coaching staff at Bethany.
“I’ve made three visits down there, and I feel like a part of the family,” Rivera said. “They are so easy to get along with.”
Lindsborg is smaller than Frederick.
“It’s probably old-town Frederick size,” Rivera said. “I didn’t really want to go anywhere big. I wanted the time with the professors. That way, I’m not a number. The campus is in the middle of town, which is why the town supports it so much.”
When he’s finished with his degree, Rivera would like to land a job designing game animation.
“The head for animation movies like ‘“Transformers?’” I got to meet him while I was there,” Rivera said. “Having that talent there is amazing. I’m really excited.”
“All your work at Gold Crown, club basketball, the time and money your parents committed to you to improve your skills is paying off today,” Frank said. “Congratulations, young man. It’s well-deserved.”
“I-70 is going to get a lot of use in the next four years as you develop,” Doering said. “We are proud to welcome you as a Swede.
Rivera said at the beginning of the recruiting process, he was “scared.”
“I was scared to leave my family. But they are all with me on this,” Rivera said. “I have a good future ahead of me. They are excited for me to get started. I was nervous about meeting new people and starting fresh. After being there a few times, it feels like I’ve been going there for a couple of semesters.”
Contact Sports Editor Steve Smith at email@example.com.