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March 3, 2013

FURFARI COLUMN: Solheim still here in W.Va.

MORGANTOWN — Do you remember Brent Solheim, an outstanding forward/center on the West Virginia men’s basketball team in 1995-96-97-98?

Well, the 6-foot-8, 235-pound native of Rochester, Minn., likes it here so well that he’s still a resident of this area.

He’s married to wife Kristie and they are living in Fairmont, where she grew up. Brent graduated in 1998 with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. He also completed graduate studies for a master’s degree in 2009 in business administration.

Solheim is employed full time in a position with Milan Pharmaceuticals, Inc., in Morgantown — not far from where he excelled in all phases of collegiate basketball.

That world-known company had given him a summer job three of his four undergraduate years.

How was it playing for coach Gale Catlett?

“He was demanding,” Solheim replied. “He was very fair and a good coach.”

While listed as a forward, the lanky lad also saw some action in the post position. At times, he battled centers that were taller and heavier than he was.

Solheim was a very fine all-around player. But it is in rebounding that he ranks 10th all-time in offensive statistics. He had 206 offensive and an overall total of 428 rebounds.

Playing in 109 games, including 85 starts, Solheim averaged 23.8 minutes per game. He made 335 of 625 field goal attempts (53.6 percent), 199 of 294 free throws and 869 points (8.6 per game).

He also was credited with 79 steals, 107 assists and 64 blocked shots.

“It was tough playing in the Big East Conference,” Solheim admitted. “No doubt about that.”

“I’ve never had any regrets about coming this far from Minnesota,” he said. “That’s why I’m still here and settled down.”

His teams posted record of 13-13, 12-15, 21-10 and 24-9. Solheim was a team co-captain his senior season.

He said a WVU alumnus in his hometown, Dr. Thomas Spelsburg, recommended to an assistant coach that the university offer him a scholarship.

Brent and his wife have four young children. They are Roman, Jasmine, Mylee and Jaida.

While he played here, Solheim helped the Mountaineers to earn berths in the NCAA Tournament one year and to the National Invitational Tournament in another year.

Brent Solheim sounds like he couldn’t be any happier. So it’s assumed that Minnesota’s loss is West Virginia’s gain.

It was in the postseason of 1998 that Solheim played in a most memorable NCAA Tournament upset win. That was in the second round against Bob Huggins’ Cincinnati, 75-74.

Jarrod West won the game, sending WVU to the Sweet 16, on a buzzer-beating 3-point shot.

WVU, which had defeated Temple 82-52 in round one, lost to Utah 65-62 in its third game.

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