By University of Sioux Falls Athletics
University of Sioux Falls men’s basketball standout Teathloach Pal, from Fridley, strives to be the best he can be, both on and off the court.
No stranger to success, with an NSIC South Division Championship under his belt, Pal’s drive to succeed is driven by his trust in friends, relationship to mentors and coaches, and a deep commitment to his faith.
Pal, a second-team All-NSIC Team selection in the 2019-2020 season, was a part of USF’s first-ever Men’s Basketball NSIC South Division Championship in the 2019-2020 season. In that season, he played in and started all 30 games, averaging 30.1 minutes, 10.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 1.5 assists per game while leading USF to a program-best 22-8 record and 17-5 in the NSIC South.
“The most rewarding part of competing in athletics is seeing the skills that used to be challenging become second nature, whether that’s in practice or on the court,” said Pal, who is currently averaging a team-high 14.5 points and 9.3 rebounds per game this season. He ranks third in the NSIC in rebounding.
“Being able to see what’s going to transpire on the court before it actually happens is so satisfying, and knowing that you gave it your all out there, there’s just nothing better,” Pal said.
Now in his fifth year at USF, Pal has been a part of successful USF Men’s Basketball program since he arrived. The Cougars are sitting just percentage points out of first place in the NSIC South with a 4-2 record. Pal appreciates the uniqueness of each and every one of his teammates.
“My teammates are like family. Everyone brings something to the table and we are all willing to hold each other accountable,” Pal said.
“Having a community like that really pushes me to grow into a better man, student, and teammate,” added Pal, who has 705 career points and 691 rebounds, as well as 16 double-doubles with 31 double-digit scoring games and 20 double-digit rebound contests.
While teammates come and go and friendships sometimes separate due to distance and life, there’s nothing quite like the bond between a player and their coach, which is something Pal is thankful for.
“I trust them and their game plan, and that’s why I think we have the success that we do,” he said.
One of the main reasons why Pal chose USF was because of the men’s basketball coaching staff, he said. He noted a strong bond with USF head coach Chris Johnson along with associate head coach Jack Nelson and assistant David Maxwell: “They are great men who allow me to mature and also push me to become great on and off the court.”
Johnson has appreciated Pal’s energy and leadership over the last five years.
“Tessy (Pal) has meant so much to our program. He has gone from a young freshman that brought energy and urgency to our program, to a respected leader and a go-to player for our program as a senior,” Johnson said.
Pal was also a member of the 2017-2018 USF men’s basketball team that set a then DII program-best record of 20-10, including 14 league wins. Pal played in 30 games that season and started 13 of them.
“Tessy is a unique player for two reasons in my opinion: his size and length that he brings to the power forward position — he affects nearly every single play in some way with his length/reach and activity — and his eagerness to learn and improve. He loves to work, he loves to learn new things, and he is willing to work hard enough to improve,” Johnson said.
Even from a young age, Pal has always loved sports and the competition aspect that comes with them.
“I loved to play sports as a kid in the neighborhood, but I especially loved to win,” said Pal, cracking a smile. “When you win, it helps you gain respect without having to say too much.”
Respect is certainly something Pal has earned through his inner drive to be successful. Since he was younger, he has dedicated himself to hard work through a relentless focus on striving to be the best that he can be not only on the court but in the community.
“As a person, Tessy will always be the ultimate achiever. He has so many goals that he wants to attain on and off the floor,” Johnson said. “He will work to achieve those goals and almost immediately finds new goals to work towards, and that has always been so impressive to all of us in the program.”
The son of Sarah Jiech and Paul Pal, Pal learned from an early age that hard work and faith are two important qualities in life.
“I lost my dad at 9 years old, and my mom had six kids to take care of. She did online school and became a certified nursing assistant, and from there she was able to get a job and take care of her family,” said Pal, who looked forward to having his mom and his two sisters, Nyemuoch and Nyeleap, attend on Senior Day on Saturday, Feb. 13, when USF would face city rival Augustana at the Stewart Center. Pal also has three brothers, Chany, Goamar, and Junup, and a niece, Naveah Bates.
Despite the trials and tribulations Pal endured as a child, he came out of that stronger than before and a better person because of it.
“One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from my mom is that ‘faith without work is dead,’” Pal said. “Her faith kept us together, even when she didn’t have two quarters to rub together.”
Learning life lessons like those at such a young age can be hard, and for Pal, it made a lasting impact on his life. He is now a part of a Bible study group that helps him to remember those lessons his parents taught him all those years ago.
“We are called to serve, and my dad taught me to serve God by serving others,” Pal said. “The scriptures say he who is first will be last, and he who is last will be first. I am involved in a men’s small group that meets up once a week, and it has been such a blessing in my life because it gave me friends who care about life on a level much deeper than just the surface.”
Pal will be graduating with an MBA in organizational leadership with hopes to play professional basketball. This summer, he hopes to find an internship that will allow him to learn, grow and use the skills he’s acquired so far.
“Throughout my time at USF, I have surrounded myself with family and friends, especially during this pandemic,” Pal said. “Just like a storm, the pandemic will pass and life will continue. I am excited about the future.”