Michael Vandahl, a 2008 SSHS graduate and former Sailors basketball star - shown here in a March 2008 playoff game - is transferring from the University of Denver after one year to play basketball at the University of Nebraska, Kearney. There, he'll go against former Sailors coach Kelly Meek, who now is an assistant at Western State College in Gunnison.
Steamboat Springs Michael Vandahl and Kelly Meek have about as tight a relationship as a player and former coach can have.
Long hours in the gym, relentless workouts and four years together formed a bond like only a few in all of Meek's years as a coach.
Starting next year, however, Meek - who retired from coaching Steamboat Springs High School at the conclusion of the 2007-08 season - won't look down the bench to Vandahl.
He'll look across to the other bench.
Vandahl is transferring from the University of Denver after one year to play basketball at the University of Nebraska, Kearney. Kearney plays in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, where Meek is an assistant coach with Western State College in Gunnison.
"I'll look over there and want him to be successful and have a great night," Meek said. "But not great enough to beat us."
Vandahl, a 2008 Steamboat Springs High School graduate, spent his freshman year playing for DU.
While he saw very limited action in just two games, Vandahl said the experience playing Division I basketball helped his game immensely.
Vandahl said in practices he got much faster and stronger than he was in high school, something he said players have to be at the next level.
"You have to work as hard as you can every day," he said. "It's not like high school. If you don't bring it every day, someone will beat you."
Although Vandahl enjoyed his time at DU, he said the Princeton offense coach Joe Scott runs didn't fit his game.
The Princeton offense grinds out possessions and has teams take shots near the end of the shot clock.
At Kearney, Vandahl said the offense is more open and motion-based - something he ran to perfection in Steamboat.
"That's a program that is a real good fit for him," Meek said. "Always traditionally they're tough, hard-nosed, no-nonsense kids. That epitomizes him to the core."
Vandahl also looked at the University of Hawaii and Chaminade University, among others.
He said he chose Kearney after taking a visit and realizing he could compete for playing time right away.
He also won't have to sit out a year. He'll enter the Lopers program as a sophomore, but could petition the NCAA to get a year of eligibility back since he played so little his freshman year at DU.
Meek and Vandahl admitted Meek might have the advantage in how to guard the young point guard. In the competitive spirit both have, however, neither would reveal any sort of game plan.
That's OK to both, as each admit they'll remain close - except for that one night in January when Western State makes the trip to Kearney.
"That will be strange looking at him on the other bench," Meek said. "But I can't say enough about what he meant to (Steamboat's) program to all the kids that watched his work ethic and dedication to the team. He's in the upper echelon of kids I coached in the last 37 years. He sits up there in that top 1 percent."