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San Francisco 49ers invite Bemidji State hoops star to tryout

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The 49ers are hoping they have found the next Antonio Gates.

San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke's trip to watch his daughter play college basketball has led to an invitation for a men's basketball player at her school to try out for the 49ers.

Baalke's daughter, Cassie, plays basketball for Division II Bemidji (Minn.) State. Baalke, a Bemidji alum, also watched Bemidji's men's team after the women's game and noticed big man Zach Noreen, a 6-foot-6, 255-pound senior.

Baalke talked with Noreen afterward, and the upshot is that Noreen will be in San Francisco this week for a tryout.

Noreen hasn't played football since 2009, when he was a senior in high school in Avon, Minn., but he told the St. Cloud (Minn.) Times that he had been approached by Bemidji State football coaches, who had wanted him to play tight end for the Beavers. He went through spring practice last month at Bemidji, and now is bound for San Francisco.

"I got a call (May 10) ... and they said, 'Hey, we were talking about you. What do you think about coming down for rookie camp?'" Noreen told the Times. "Well, I'm not going to say 'no.'"

Zach's brother, Seth Noreen, was a tight end/long-snapper at St. Cloud (Minn.) State from 2008-11, and is serving as a quasi-coach for Zach to get him ready for his tryout.

Noreen told the Times he has been studying film with his brother, but as he noted, that only gets you so far.

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"When we're doing drills, I'm just going to do what the guy in front of me does," he said.

If he has a good minicamp, he could earn a contract from the 49ers. That's obviously a long shot. Still, it has been done: San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates played college basketball at Kent State and has developed into one of the best at his position in NFL history. (As with Noreen, Gates played high school football.)

If Noreen doesn't make it, he still will have some memories to lean on, including his final high school game.

"I ended on a good note," Noreen told the Times. "My last catch was a touchdown."

Mike Huguenin can be reached at mike.huguenin@nfl.com. You also can follow him on Twitter @MikeHuguenin.

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