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Born in the northern Iowa farming town of Bancroft — population 732 — Randy Rahe learned early in his 55 years that hard work and success go hand-in-hand.

Since being hired as Weber State's basketball coach nearly a decade ago, Rahe has used the same approach to cultivate a winning tradition that few schools can match.

"He loves to compete, just like me," says junior guard Jeremy Senglin. "I like fighting for him every day because I see him fight. And I can see he believes in me."

Under Rahe:

• The Wildcats have won five Big Sky Conference championships — two regular season and three tournaments.

• They have won 65 percent of their games, including a 129-43 record in league play.

• They make their second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years Friday night against Xavier in St. Louis — not too far from his midwestern roots.

"He's a great coach," says senior forward Joel Bolomboy. "He recruits the right players. He'll take character and toughness — on and off the court — over a player who's just talented. He just recruits the right guys and holds us to high standards. He makes sure we do the right things."

Bolomboy is typical of Rahe's best players through the years. He was lightly recruited out of high school in Fort Worth and needed time to develop. But today, he is the Big Sky's Most Valuable Player and, more than likely, a future NBA draft pick.

"We invest in them," Rahe says. "We tell them during recruiting, 'We're going to put our heart and soul into helping you become the best you can be. If you don't want to be the best you can be, don't come here. It won't work. But if you're willing to put in the time, we'll be there to help you. We'll give you the tools to do that.' "

Rahe attended Buena Vista College in Storm Lake, Iowa, where he was a more highly decorated shortstop than point guard. But he choose basketball as his profession.

Rahe's big break came in 1989, when he was hired as an assistant by then-Colorado State coach Stew Morrill. When Morrill moved to Utah State in 2004, Rahe came with him.

Tim Duryea, who is now the Aggies' head coach, was also on Morrill's staff.

"Randy … is a quality guy and a very, very solid coach," Duryea said. "He's an excellent recruiter and he does a great job developing relationships with his players. [Weber] is organized and structured, but he gives those players confidence so they can still be aggressive and make plays."

So why has the Rahe-Weber State marriage survived for 10 years, when so many others end when a coach leaves for another job or gets fired?

"Randy's mentality fits Ogden's mentality," Weber State athletic director Jerry Bovee says. "This is an old railroad town. It was pretty rough in the old days, right? And he's an old-school type of coach. …He does what he does, he knows what he knows and it's worked for him for a long time."

Said Rahe: "It's a blue-collar place to me. It's just a bunch of good, hard-working people that work together to try and be successful. Not just Weber State, but the community. Ogden is a blue-collar type of community and that's kind of who I am."

Rahe, of course, has fielded calls from other schools about leaving Weber State. But it's apparent Bovee has provided an environment he enjoys.

"You are always nervous about it," the Wildcat athletic director said. "… But when he's looked at other jobs, it's more than just money. It's like, 'Is this a place where I can be me? If this a place I can do it my way? Will I get support without micromanagement?' He gets all that here and it works for his style."

Bovee is a realist, too.

"There may come a day when something comes along that's difficult for him to turn down," he said. "But we'll deal with that as it comes. … Randy loves Ogden and I think he enjoys an environment where he can succeed."

Twitter: @sluhm —

Weber State vs. Xavier

Friday, 7:20 p.m.

TV • TNT Rahe by the numbers

4 • Big Sky Conference Coach of the Year awards

5 • Big Sky Conference championships (regular season and tournaments)

6 • Big Sky Conference Most Valuable Players

8 • National postseason tournament appearances

20 • Five seasons with at least 20 wins

27 • All-Big Sky Conference players