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#WCChoops Five Questions - Thomas van der Mars, Portland Pilots

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Throughout the course of the 2015 WCC Basketball Championships, #WCChoops Columnist John Crumpacker will be posting mini-profiles and features to go along with his daily "What We Learned" postings.

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By John Crumpacker
#WCChoops Columnist

LAS VEGAS -  As a basketball player, Thomas van der Mars fell one inch short of 7 feet. As a college student, he fell one 'A' short of a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Nevertheless, he was still named an Academic All-American for 2015.

Following No. 6 Portland's stunning 69-52 upset of No. 3 Saint Mary's in Saturday's quarterfinal round, I stood eye-to-chest with van der Mars and tossed five questions up to the rarefied air he occupies.

Q: Congratulations of making Academic All-American. With a damn-near-perfect 3.95 GPA, where did you fail? That's fail as in failing to earn an 'A.'

A: That was undergrad. I got a 'B+' in Innovation. We had a tough teacher. I had a couple A-minuses in there, too.

Q: You're now working on your master's at Portland. What discipline are you delving into?

A: Science Operations and Technology Management.

Q: What the heck is that? When I went to college in a one-room schoolhouse with the schoolmarm in a gingham dress ringing a bell to call the pupils to class, we had one-word majors like English and History and Biology.

A: It's quantitatively based, focused on the operation of businesses. It's supply chain and inventory management. My goal is to play professionally first and afterward I'm looking to some consulting work where I help businesses improve.

Q: You're putting me to sleep here. Let's talk basketball. When you went out of the game with your fourth foul with 13:53 to play, Portland had a 39-32 lead. When you went back in at 2:22, the lead was 62-47. Essentially, your team didn't even need you. What was that like watching your team excel without you?

A: It's hard not to be able to be out there contributing. You've got to get over yourself. You're still a teammate. You have to give them energy. I was so proud of them. We just shut them down. My teammates came up with big plays.

Q: I see you are from a town called Gouda in The Netherlands. I imagine people there respond to someone's flatulence by saying, "Who cut the Gouda," huh?

A: We're famous for our cheese.

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