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AP Photo Colorado's Austin Dufault, left, runs down the court after making a basket during the semifinals of the Pac-12 conference championship in Los Angeles on March 9. The Killdeer High School graduate had an exhilarating year, helping his team win the Pac-12 title, playing in the NCAA tournament and moving on to a professional career in Europe.

No. 6 Sports Story of the Year: Dufault went from the Big Dance to the Czech Republic

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Editor's Note: The Dickinson Press' Top 10 sports stories of 2012 countdown continues through Sunday, Dec. 30.

This has been a year of transition for Austin Dufault.

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In January, he was adjusting to a role as a featured player on the Colorado men's basketball team. By March, he and the Buffaloes were dancin' in the NCAA Tournament.

Today, he is at his parents' home in Greeley, Colo., taking a five-day break from his newest job: professional basketball player for BK Prostejov in Prostejov, Czech Republic.

"A lot of changes have occurred in the last year that I've had to adjust to and I think I've handled them pretty well so far," Dufault said Saturday during a phone interview.

An outstanding 2012 for the Killdeer High School graduate and former North Dakota Mr. Basketball puts him at No. 6 on The Dickinson Press' sports stories of the year.

In June, Dufault was named one of three winners of the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association's Dakota Award, an honor given to North Dakota natives who excel in sports outside of the state.

He capped his college basketball career with a bang, helping Colorado make a Cinderella run to the Pac-12 tournament championship after entering as the No. 6 seed.

The 6-foot-9 forward and four-year starter saved his best season for last, averaging 11.1 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while shooting 49 percent from the field. He was named the Buffs' Most Improved Player and Most Inspirational Player by his teammates.

Winning the Pac-12 title helped the Buffaloes earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. Colorado beat UNLV in the first round before bowing out to Baylor in the second round.

"Looking back on my senior season, I guess it was kind of like a dream season you could say," Dufault said in a June 20 article in The Dickinson Press. "Personally, I had my best season that I've had in college. I played really well. I figured it out a little bit -- especially at the new position that I wasn't really familiar with. Team-wise, just making it to the NCAA Tournament was amazing."

Dufault finished his career with Colorado school records for games played in a career (136) and conference games played (66). He was also part of a senior class that set a record for most wins over a four-year career (72).

"It was one of those dream seasons that you kind of hope to have your senior year," Dufault said.

Two months later, Dufault was headed overseas to become play for BK Prostejov.

Through 16 games this season, Dufault is averaging a team-high 16.2 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 59 percent from the field and 42 percent from 3-point range. He has made a team-high 22 3-pointers.

"The first few games of the regular season, we struggled a little bit," Dufault said. "After our struggles in the beginning, we've been playing pretty well."

Monke is the Sports Editor of The Dickinson Press. Reach him at dmonke@thedickinsonpress.com. Follow him on Twitter at monkebusiness.

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