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'I'm the worst athlete in our family'; Bison starting center comes from a top athletic family

Jalen Sundell's entire family has a pedigree of athletic distinction

Sundell family photo
North Dakota State starting center Jalen Sundell is surrounded by his family. His sister Serena is on the far left, father Bob and mother Karena on the right./Photo submitted to WDAY Sports

FARGO - The Sundells of Maryville, Missouri have to be on the short list of the top athletic families in the Show Me State.

"It's always been competitive in our family. I tell people all the time, I'm the worst athlete in our family which is a truthful statement." said North Dakota State junior center Jalen Sundell.

That's saying something coming from NDSU's starting center. But he may be right.

Sundell's younger sister, Serena is starting as a freshman on Kansas State's basketball team, while their parents, Bob and Korena also played college basketball. Bob is in the Northwest Missouri State Athletic Hall of Fame and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association Hall of Fame.

"They probably have pretty good genetics, more from their mom than their dad." said Bob Sundell. Bob was a three-time All-MIAA selection in basketball while setting school records in track.


The Sundell family had a unique experience last week when Kansas State hosted NDSU's women's basketball team in Manhattan. Family loyalties were divided.

"It was weird looking across the court and looking at the NDSU gear and us not being a part of it." Bob said. Serena scored eight points in the Wildcats 78-52 win over the Bison. It was the moment after the game that had the family laughing.

"I see my dad after the game and he was wearing a quarter zip K-State pullover. He pulls it to the side and was wearing a Bison shirt underneath." Serena said.

The Sundell children nearly both ended up in Fargo. Serena got a full court recruiting press from Bison head coach Jory Collins.


"She received 25-50 letters and 13 scholarship offers. But she only got one handwritten letter. And that was from Jory Collins and we still have that. NDSU women's basketball would be our second favorite college team right now." Bob said

"My mom was definitely like, 'really consider Fargo, that would be awesome go to the same school'. And in the back of my head, it would be fun to school to the same school with my brother, and us both be Bison. But I needed to make the best decision for me." Serena said.

Sundell family
North Dakota State starting center Jalen Sundell is surrounded by his family. Sister Serena on the left, with parents Korena and Bob. /Photo submitted to WDAY Sports

"I definitely wanted her to come here. But I wanted her to pick the best situation, but my mom was rooting for the drive to be the same." Jalen said.

Serena chose Manhattan, so the Sundells are spending plenty of time on the road these days. They were watching Friday night's Kansas State game against top ranked South Carolina in Fargo, while getting ready to see Jalen's playoff game.

All the while enjoying the journey they have gone on thanks to sports.

"We were the parents when Jalen was born that was like 'there's no way we're going to do all the traveling with youth sports.' And at about age 8, we started a traveling basketball team and it blossomed from there."

Related Topics: BISON MEDIA ZONE
Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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