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Dual personality
Montana senior forward Victor Venters wrestles a rebound from an opposing player earlier this season. Venters, who grew up in Northern California, will play his final game in front of his family and friends Saturday at Sacramento State. Photo by KURT WILSON/Missoulian

Boisterous Griz forward Venters has a different side off the court

Victor Venters is a Gemini.

There are those who would say it's the stars that explain the dual nature of Venters' personality.

There's the quiet, courteous, diligent student who talks to his mother nearly every day.

Then there's the Venters Montana men's basketball fans see. The gregarious, wise-cracking, hootin' and hollerin' Venters.

The 6-foot-7, 230-pound Griz senior embraces his self-appointed role as team firebrand.

"We don't really have a lot of vocal leaders on this team," Venters said. "I kind of take it upon myself to be more vocal than I would usually be. We have a lot of quiet guys on this team. Once they see it's OK to talk and get excited, they'll get excited too."

Montana coach Pat Kennedy appreciates Venters' exuberance.

"He's our locker room leader," Kennedy said. "He has a lot of enthusiasm and energy. He's not afraid to express his emotions and I really like that about him. We need that. Sometimes we're too quiet a team."

Watch Venters during the Grizzlies' pregame warmups. He's the one in the middle shouting at his teammates to get the adrenaline flowing.

When a teammate makes a good play during practice, Venters and others will shout out his hometown.

"When Steve (Horne) makes a play, we'll call out 'P-cola,' or 'Pensacola,'" Venters said. "Or if Roy (Booker) makes a play we'll call out 'Missouri.' Every time I do something, it's like 'Bay Area, Bay Area.'"

Venters, from Richmond, Calif., will make his last appearance in front of the home folks when the Griz travel to Sacramento State on Saturday night. The state capital is about an hour's drive from where Venters grew up.

"It's one of the games you look forward to on the schedule," Venters said. "To get back to California, see your family and all your friends, and play against people you've been playing against since you were a kid. You talk a lot of trash about that game."

It will be an opportunity for Venters to visit with his mother, Renate Siman, who pretty much raised her son on her own.

"We're real close," Venters said. "It was just me and my mom when I was growing up. My father left at an early age. We talk just about every day. She tells me to work on my free throws."

Venters played one of his most memorable games in Sacramento as a sophomore. The Griz made a surprising run through the Big Sky Conference tournament and earned a spot in the NCAA tournament opposite Oregon at Arco Arena. When starting center Travis Greenwalt picked up his fourth foul early in the second half, Venters came off the bench. He scored all six of his points on three consecutive possessions, twice schooling Oregon's 7-foot-2 center Chris Christopherson with pretty up-and-under moves.

"People still come up to me and ask me about that game," Venters said. "There were so many people there that I knew. It was a blast."

It's the dream of returning to the NCAA tournament that stokes the fire in Venters.

"I want to get back to the (NCAA) tournament one more time," Venters said. "It's one of those things you remember the rest of your life."

With the Griz sitting at 2-4 in league and 5-13 overall after Thursday's loss at Northern Arizona, it will take another improbable run through the league tournament to get that done. Venters can offer testimony that the possibility exists.

"A lot of times people say you've got to do this or you've got to do that, different kinds of X's and O's," Venters said. "We just need some confidence. We just need to start winning some games. People say winning's a great deodorant."

Say what?

"Well I know this, it's better to have a bad game and win that a good game and lose," Venters said.

Venters keeps his positive outlook despite averaging just 13 minutes and five points a game while playing behind junior transfer Kamarr Davis. But he makes the most of his time, shooting 57 percent from the field. He has no regrets.

"I came here as a sophomore and I really had no idea what's going on," Venters said. "I still have no idea what's going on, but I'm a little wiser than when I walked in the door."

What Venters will do when he walks out the door is a mystery to him. He'd like to keep playing basketball somewhere, but if he doesn't, he'll have a degree in business management once he graduates this spring.

"It's getting pretty late in the year," Venters said. "A lot of seniors talk about what their plans are for next year, but I really have no idea what's going to happen. I heard once that by the time you're a senior you'll know what you want to do with your life. I think whoever said that is a complete idiot because I have no idea what I'm going to do."

Maybe it's already written in the stars.

Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or by e-mail at sportsdesk@missoulian.com.

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