A family affair

SPU's Joe Rasmussen follows ex-NBA player father into basketball

Grant Leep doesn’t pause for a second when asked who his senior center, Joe Rasmussen, reminds him of on the court. 

“His dad,” the Seattle Pacific men’s basketball coach says with a laugh. 

While he didn’t get to see his father Blair in any one of his 532 NBA games, Joe picked up the sport at a young age.

“I grew up kind of always idolizing that, and wanting to be able to play basketball,” he says. 

By his junior year at Mercer Island High School, he began to seriously consider playing collegiately. While he looked at several other schools, including Whitworth University and the University of Alaska-Anchorage, he chose SPU.

“Coming from a big family — a very close family — it was very important for me to stay home,” he says. 

So, he did.  Now four years later, he’s played a career-high in minutes as he finishes his final season with the Falcons. The 6-foot-8 Rasmussen has been one of the team’s best shooters and rebounders, and a steadying presence in year when the team has been plagued by injuries. He’s been one of just two Falcons to start every game.

Leep says Rasmussen’s sharp shooting and size are a unique combination, one that allows the coaches to get a bit . 

“He gives us a lot of versatility in what his skillset is, and that allows us to move him at different spots on the floor,” he says. 

It’s not often, the coach says, to have your starting center also be your best 3-point shooter. 

“It’s been really fun for us as a coaching staff now because we get to be creative, and stuff that we would normally run for guards, we can run for him a little bit, because of his shooting ability,” he says. 

But Leep and the coaching staff has taken a particular interest in Rasmussen’s development as a leader. 

“Where I’ve been really proud of Joe is he’s not the most outgoing-ly vocal guy, as far as a leadership perspective, and we’ve seen so much growth from him in that area this year,” Leep says. 

As he reflects on his time at Seattle Pacific, Rasmussen says he’ll remember the program’s two Great Northwest Athletic Conference titles, and extending the team’s consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance streak to 12 years the most. 

And while the memories will remain, it’s tough to see his tenure come to an end. 

“It’s hard to accept that it’s going to be over,” he says “It’s been a good four years. I’ve met a lot of great people, have a lot of great relationships that I’ve formed here. I don’t think that those are going to stop, those relationships are going to continue on for I feel like the rest of my life. But it’s definitely going to be tough to move on from this.”

His coach, for one, is sad to see him go. 

“We’re going to miss him,” Leep says. “Not only because of who he is as a guy, and as a person we enjoy having him around because he’s one of the most laidback and easy to like people that you’ll ever be around, but that unique skillset that he has is just hard to find. It’s just hard to find, and he’s done such a great job this year, and we’re really proud of where he’s at and where he’s come from, and we’re going to miss him for sure.”

Rasmussen says he’ll look back on his time in Falcons jersey fondly. 

“It was a very special experience,” he says. “[I’m] very lucky, very blessed, very happy with my decision to come here and play.”

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