In his heyday at Blue Springs High School, Austin Meyer was known as “The A-Train.”
If the Wildcats needed a big basket, a must-have rebound or a defensive gem, he was the man they looked to.
Now, in his ninth season as a full-time assistant coach on the MIAA national championship Northwest Missouri State University men’s basketball team, he is the same go-to guy.
Meyer is the program’s lead recruiter – and it should come as no surprise that reigning MIAA Player of the Year Justin Pitts is from Blue Springs South High School. And Kirk Finley, a member of last year’s championship team is a graduate of Meyer’s alma mater, along with newcomer, freshman Tyree King.
Meyer’s other duties include organizing and running the Center Court Cat Club, organizing and presenting opponent scouting reports, coordinating official visits, coordinating team travel, community engagements, summer camps, social media and post player skill development.
There’s a rumor up north that he also drives the team bus and does an occasional load of laundry, but the Meyer assures that’s not the case.
“I do a lot of cool things,” he said with a laugh, “but I don’t drive the bus.”
During Meyer’s time on staff, the Bearcats have put together six straight 20-win seasons. The team has won three Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association tournament championships, five MIAA regular-season championships, made four NCAA Division II Sweet Sixteen appearances, appeared in an Elite Eight and captured the program’s first ever national championship in 2016-17, going 35-1.
“It’s been an amazing ride,” Meyer said in a recent phone conversation from Maryville. “I came up here in 2002 and am still here – and I have loved every minute of it. I never dreamed after finishing my playing career that I’d become a member of the coaching staff. It’s all like a dream come true. I’ve been here 15 years and I’m 33 years old – I’ve spent nearly half my life here in Maryville.”
The former Wildcat’s collegiate playing career spanned four seasons from 2002-06, leading the team in scoring (13.3) and rebounding (5.4) for the 2004-05 squad.
He was Northwest's all-time leading 3-point shooter with 215 made until current Bearcat Zach Schneider broke the record in 2015-16. Meyer’s 1,294 career points rank ninth in program history.
Meyer has known nothing but success on the court and on the sidelines as a coach as he won an MIAA conference tournament championship and made an appearance in the Elite Eight during the 2003-04 season when the team finished 29-5. As a sophomore, Meyer led the team with 68 3-pointers and shot 42 percent from beyond the arc and finished as the team's second-leading scorer with 11.5 points per game.
He was the team’s leading scorer as a junior in 2004-05 and led the Bearcats to the Sweet Sixteen as a senior in 2006-07. He graduated from Northwest with his bachelor’s degree in corporate recreation in 2006 and then received his master’s in physical education in 2008. He was then hired as a graduate assistant under former head coach Steve Tappmeyer and was promoted to a full-time assistant in Tappmeyer’s final season in 2008-09.
“I owe so much to Coach Tappmeyer for taking a chance on me, and coach (Ben) McCollum and I are really close,” Meyer said. “I have learned from two great coaches at Northwest. There’s a reason we have had so much success – great coaches and great talent.”
Meyer takes great pride in the success his Bearcat teams have achieved.
“It’s a little bit easier to recruit when you’re a defending national champion,” he quipped, “but early on, once players got up here and met our players and coaches, they fell in love with the place just like I did 15 years ago.”
And that love affair goes beyond the court.
“Our fans and our community are amazing,” Meyer said. “When we play (postseason games) in (Kansas City’s) Municipal Auditorium, it’s like a home court advantage, and we played in Sioux Falls (South Dakota) and it was darn near sold out and it was all our fans. Our guys saw all our fans and it really inspired them. It inspired everyone on our staff and our team.”
While Meyer has enjoyed every type of accolade and success at the MIAA collegiate level, he said his greatest moment will take place in August when his wife Kelsi is expecting the couple’s first child.
“Our first child, and it was great timing because our baby is due after the season is over,” Meyer said. “I am beyond excited. I can’t wait to be a father. So many great things have happened to me since I got here 15 years ago, and being a father is the most exciting! When the season is over, being a father will be my No. 1 focus, and I can’t wait.”
The 2018 MIAA basketball championship will be March 1-4 at Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium.