WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: Sydney Zerr finishing family’s record-breaking era at Bemidji State

The sun is setting on the Zerr dynasty, one that has reigned over the frozen shores of Lake Bemidji through 17 combined seasons across 39 years.

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Bemidji State senior Sydney Zerr (20) readies to defend the ball during a game against Minnesota State Moorhead on Dec. 10, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — Kim Zerr has watched just about every Bemidji State women’s basketball game for the past nine seasons. But she’d much rather be on the court than in the stands.

“I would love to put on a uniform and go back out there and play,” she said.

But how would her daughter Sydney feel about a new teammate?

“I don’t think she’d want me to put a uniform on and play again,” Kim laughed.

Kim (Babula) Zerr had her time with the Beavers from 1983-87, and now Sydney is finishing the family’s legacy in the same program that Kim once pioneered. Kim’s oldest daughters, Hanna and Haley, also played for the program in recent years , but even Sydney’s career is nearing its end.


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Kim Zerr watches the Beavers and her daughter Sydney Zerr against U-Mary on Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

The sun is now setting on the Zerr dynasty, one that has reigned over the frozen shores of Lake Bemidji through 17 combined seasons across 39 years.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Sydney said. “I’m just trying to soak in all my last minutes, trying to have fun with it until I’m done.”

Sydney’s fifth and final season with the Beavers has just a few weeks remaining. As the youngest sibling, she has the family’s final say on its impact on the program.

After years of losing records and long winters, Sydney has led the program back toward the winning tradition of Kim’s days.

“The struggle is part of the story,” Sydney said. “We’re on the rise, and I’m excited to come back and see the great things this team can do in years to come.”

‘She likes to brag’

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Kim (Babula) Zerr (31) drives to the hoop during a game against Concordia in the 1980s.
BSU photo

Kim played in BSU’s most successful era, winning Northern Sun Conference championships in 1986 and 1987.

She holds the program record for assists (843) and steals (293), and she racked up 1,137 points along the way. She led Bemidji State to three consecutive NAIA National Tournaments and was a 1987 Second Team All-American.

Kim also did it all without a 3-point line, and they played with a men’s-sized ball until her senior year. Even now, she still lets her daughters know about her glory days.


“I tell them all the time,” she said. “Like Sydney says in some interviews, ‘Yeah, my mom still lets me know.’ But you know what, I think as much as they don’t want to tell me, they really think it’s a cool thing that we all played here.”

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Kim Zerr, middle, and her daughters Haley (2) and Hanna (3) pose for a picture after a Bemidji State women's basketball game in 2015.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

Despite a humblebrag or two, Sydney is still able to learn from her mom’s expertise.

“She likes to brag about (her playing days) a little bit. But yeah, I do ask her quite a bit,” Sydney said. “And she’s helped me a lot with my game. She’s always encouraging me.”

Since her playing career ended, that’s one way that Kim has been able to contribute to the program. She has coached her daughters with the knowledge she possesses, which she wielded herself while playing to land a spot in the BSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2015.

“She just knows my game,” Sydney said. “She knows if I’m off, or she’ll tell me to shoot the ball. So it’s just a boost of confidence.”

Records run in the family

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Bemidji State senior Sydney Zerr (20) runs a play late in the second half against Minnesota Duluth on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Sydney is a record holder in her own right. She recently broke the program record for games played and now sits at 119, and her 107 starts -- all consecutive -- are also more than any other Beaver.

She’s as dependable as they come, but more than that, she’s also sparked a program revival in the past two seasons. BSU will likely finish with back-to-back winning seasons -- matching the program’s longest such stretch since Kim’s helped Bemidji State to five straight winning years (1983-88).


“For me, it’s not about the statistics for her,” Kim said. “She’s the floor general out there. … I was a different kind of a point guard. I was a facilitator. I liked to drive and get it in the mix of it. She’s more of the calming presence.”

Hanna played for the program from 2013-17, which overlapped with Haley’s time in 2015-19. Sydney then overlapped with Haley when she arrived in 2017-18, continuing the family tradition in green and white.

“I’m just grateful for the opportunity, and I’m grateful to follow in their footsteps,” Sydney said. “I love BSU, I love the community. … We’ve been up here for so many years, so it’s literally like our second home.”

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Bemidji State senior Sydney Zerr (20) holds the follow-through as she watches her 3-pointer go in during the final minute of a game against Minnesota State Moorhead on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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