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Article - New UNK fundraiser is an old member of the Kearney team

New UNK fundraiser is an old member of the Kearney team

New UNK fundraiser is an old member of the Kearney team

Former Loper basketball star Dusty Jura says he's honored to play this new position.

Posted: Tue, Jan 28, 2014

One of the best Loper basketball players in recent years has returned to UNK to be part of another team he loves:

Our team.

(And your team, if you care about UNK and Kearney.)

Dusty Jura, who graduated from UNK in 2008 with Academic All-American honors and then went on to play pro ball in Europe, recently joined the foundation's Kearney office as a fundraiser for UNK.

"I love UNK," he says. "I love the mission of the NU Foundation and what it means to UNK. And it's just an honor to have the position I have."

He's raising money for the College of Education and the Athletic Department.

He's walking through campus again – at 6-foot-6, he's easy to spot. He's only 30 and looks about the same. (But a little less hair now, he jokes.) People and professors still recognize him.

He's meeting with people who support students like the one he used to be, not long ago.

He's feeling part of the family again. The team.

"At UNK, there's just an intimacy that surrounds the place, with the campus being the size that it is. It's really easy to establish relationships with other faculty, with staff, and it's just a great, great experience for students."

Dusty grew up in Columbus. He played ball at Northern Iowa for a year and then transferred to UNK. He felt like a number in Iowa, just "kind of a cog in the machine that is the university."

UNK, he says, immediately felt like a special place. (But you already know this, if you're part of the team, don't you?)

Dusty expects the lessons he learned as a Loper to help him on his new job.

"It's the life lessons, as opposed to just how to play basketball," he says. "Lessons on work ethic. Lessons on the important things in life. The No. 1 goal that Coach (Tom) Kropp always had for his team is to enjoy the experience, because if you're not enjoying it, there's really no point in doing it.

"I think those are words that ring true in every part of your life."

Dusty received the Bush Family Athletics Scholarship in his playing days. He got to know Dr. Stephen Bush, a Kearney dentist. He'd see him in the bleachers, cheering on the team.

"It was nice to establish a relationships with him here," Dusty says. "Like many other donors that we have, he cares much about UNK and the future of the students who get those scholarships."

Kearney holds a special place in his heart – it's where he met Michelle, his wife.

He played professional basketball in Spain and Australia. After his first year in Spain, he came back to Kearney in the off season.

That's when he met her, he says, in "a pretty funny way."

"I had just came back from my first year playing basketball in Spain and went out in Kearney on a Friday," he says. "I was with a friend and was introduced to her. Upon hearing that she was a Spanish teacher, I immediately thought (thanks to liquid courage) that I would fire off some Spanish to her, all Rico Suave. 

"I said something along the lines of ‘Como Estas' and she responded in Spanish. I had no idea what she said. But I acted like I couldn't hear her over the music, so it worked out."

He got her phone number. In English.

Michelle grew up in Axtell, Neb. She was teaching Spanish in Lexington at the time they met. She now teaches at Kearney High.

"Although I didn't meet her during college, if I hadn't gone to UNK, I never would have had a reason to meet her later."

At the end of April, they'll have their first child. A baby girl.

A new member of the team.

Student support, like the kind Dusty Jura received in his playing days, is one of the top priorities of the Campaign for Nebraska, now in its final year. If you would like to help him raise money for UNK athletics or for the College of Education, please contact him at djura@nufoundation.org or 800-432-3216.

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