Before Roberto Bergersen had one of the most sterling basketball careers in Boise State history, the 1999 NBA draft pick played his true freshman season at Washington.
Injuries thrust the Federal Way, Washington, native into the Huskies’ starting lineup in their season opener against Eastern Washington, the first game of his collegiate career.
“I was thrown right into the fire,” reflected Bergersen, who helped hand the Eagles 64-48 loss in Seattle.
EWU is now the first coaching stop of Bergersen’s collegiate career.
New Eagles head coach David Riley recently announced the addition of the 45-year-old Bergersen, who spent more than a decade directing the Hoop Dreams AAU program in Boise.
Bergersen’s son, former All-Southland Conference and Central Arkansas guard Rylan Bergersen, transferred to EWU last month.
“It’s every dad’s dream to coach their kid,” said Roberto, who was also the head coach at Link Year Prep in Branson, Missouri. “And I really like what (Riley) and EWU have going. I am really impressed with his thought process of the game.”
Riley, who replaced head coach Shantay Legans after he left Cheney for the University of Portland in March following the Eagles’ run to the NCAA Tournament, has completed his coaching staff.
Riley now has three full-time assistants in associate head Arturo Ormund, who spent the previous two seasons at UTEP, and former Chico State assistant Mark Darnall.
Bergersen coached EWU point guard, former Borah (Boise) High School star and close family friend Ellis Magnuson in AAU.
Magnuson was also high school teammates with Rylan Bergersen and his younger brother, Ryzin Bergersen, who plays at NCAA Division II Northwest Nazarene.
Roberto brought Boise teams to EWU’s summer camps, where he developed a rapport with Legans, who played his senior season at Fresno State under head coach Ray Lopes.
Roberto also played for Lopes during his time with the Idaho Stampede, a former NBA D-League team in Boise.
Ormund, who also joined EWU’s coaching staff last month, was also an assistant under coach at Fresno State under Lopes when Legans was on the team.
When Legans left for Portland, elevating his former assistant Riley to head coach, Bergersen began to weigh the prospect of pursuing vacancies left by former EWU assistants Bobby Suarez and TJ Lipold, who also went to Portland.
Rylan, who averaged 16 points at Central Arkansas last season, also entered the transfer portal in March after his coach was fired and began shopping the Big Sky Conference.
“(Rylan) asked me, ‘Hey, does (EWU) have any scholarships left?’ ” Roberto said. “I felt like it was something that was destined.”
EWU lost several key players to NCAA transfer portal in the offseason after Legans’ departure, but Roberto has helped bring in two experienced commodities, including his son who started his career at BYU.
The Eagles also recently signed 6-foot-7 forward Angelo Allegri, who started last season at NCAA Tournament qualifier UNC Greensboro. Allegri played for Roberto at Link Year Prep.
Riley, 32, who is younger than all three of his assistant coaches, believes Roberto’s deep connections will continue to help boost the Eagles.
“His playing experience, teaching ability and ties to the area will be invaluable for our program,” Riley said.
Roberto averaged 20 points when he was the 1999 Big West Player of the Year at Boise State and is one of just three BSU products to get drafted in the past 35 years.
He was drafted in the second round (52nd overall pick) by the Atlanta Hawks but primarily played his 11-year professional career overseas.
Roberto, the son of former Washington State basketball standout and the late Jack Bergersen, entered the BSU Hall of Fame in 2007. The Idaho Stampede retired his jersey in 2011.
“Boise has been great to our family and it will be difficult for us to leave,” said Roberto, whose wife, Rhonda, played soccer at Washington. “But this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.”
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