By Rich Palzewic
SUAMICO – Despite battling numerous injuries during his playing career, Bay Port High School senior basketball player Ethan Begotka is trying to get through this season in one piece.
“I’ll be having surgery after the season this spring on my left ankle,” said Begotka, who likes fishing, hunting, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling and being outdoors. “Entering my sophomore year of my junior varsity season, on the first day of tryouts, I broke my fibula 30 minutes into the workout. I had surgery and was off of it for six weeks after. I jumped up to try and block a shot and rolled my ankle, which resulted in the broken bone.”
Begotka came back for his junior season and averaged about seven points a game for the Pirates until reinjuring his ankle against Green Bay Southwest later in the season.
“That was the beginning of the new problems with my ankle,” Begotka smiled. “It got better, and I ended up finishing the season against De Pere and Brookfield Central in the playoffs. Once the season ended and open gyms started, I rolled my ankle again. I met with Dr. [Robert] Anderson – he’s the best opinion around – and he said I needed surgery to fix the ligaments and tissue. It’s basically getting through this season the best I can.”
Ironically, Begotka said the 66-46 loss to Brookfield in the regional finals March 2 of last year was his finest game in a Bay Port uniform.
“We didn’t score much that game, but I totaled 17 points and five rebounds,” he said. “I was one of the sparks on offense. Brookfield went on to win state last year, but that’s where our season ended.”
Begotka, who gets his ankle taped and wears a brace for every practice and game, is currently averaging about eight points and five rebounds per contest for the 10-2 Pirates, who are under the leadership of head coach Nate Rykal.
“Coach Rykal cares about all his players,” he said. “If you have a problem, he will listen. He’s a great role model. We can mention a play design we think will work, and he will take our suggestions. He’s a successful coach, knows the game and makes practices fun.”
Begotka is keeping his options open to play college basketball, depending on what happens with his scheduled surgery.
“It scares me a little with the ankle, but since I know I’m going to the best in Dr. Anderson, I’m hoping the surgery will go well and the ankle gets back to full strength,” he said. “I want to go into law, and a few Division II schools are looking at me for basketball, but education comes first.”
Begotka, who is the son of Joni and Brian Begotka, used to play football, but he broke his knuckle in the eighth grade and couldn’t play.
He also grew three inches leading into his freshman year at Bay Port and decided to focus on basketball instead.
“I wish I had kept with football,” said Begotka. “I used to play quarterback, but I could have been a receiver with size. They had a great season.”
Begotka’s 21-year-old sister Sydney also went to Bay Port, and his dad graduated from Green Bay Southwest High School. His mom lived in Nevada and Wyoming before settling in the area.
Begotka said he’d like to be remembered at Bay Port as a leader, outgoing, respectful, nice and more than just an athlete.
He also likes business classes, cookie dough ice cream, the Milwaukee Bucks, Jeep Wranglers, playing cribbage and dogs.