Final Four familiarity

Pittsburgh knows the Final Four. While the Panthers haven’t been there since 1941, they played - and lost to - every team in this year’s field: Louisville, Wichita State, Michigan and Syracuse.  

South Dakota State isn’t that strongly connected to the semifinalists of the NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament, but it’s not a stranger, either, having scrimmaged Wichita State during the preseason and facing Michigan in the Round of 64.

Jackrabbits coach Scott Nagy offered up some comments on the Shockers and Wolverines before heading to Atlanta for the Final Four. And, for the record, he’s rooting for Michigan to win the whole thing because that couldn’t hurt SDSU’s rep or final RPI.

On the Shockers: “Super physical. It felt like when we were done, they had just bludgeoned us, particularly Carl Hall - and Tony (Fiegen) is a big, strong kid and Hall just beat us up.”

On redshirt freshman guard Ron Baker, who visited SDSU and was offered a scholarship prior to deciding walk on at WSU: “It lets us know that we’re doing our job. We’re close on some kids.”

On the emergence of Michigan freshman post Mitch McGarry: “We were his coming out party. He started that game, and it’s like his confidence has grown and grown. He’s an NBA guy as big and athletic as he is. That’s what people don’t get about him, how athletic he is. (The Wolverines) can score inside and they can shoot it.”

On the relevance - if any - of facing teams of that caliber: “It gives us an idea. Jordan (Dykstra) and I talked about that the other day - we’re just not that far (off). There’s such a fine line for schools at our level to get to that point, and once you’re there you’re not that far (off).”

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Spring ball update 4/4

Here’s the first in a series of online updates from South Dakota State spring football practice:

As expected, the list of players who are out for some or all of the spring is substantial. They are: QB Austin Sumner, WR Trevor Tiefenthaler, RB Reggie Gandy, LBs Charles Elmore and Robbie Jelsma, S Drew Kreutzfeldt, WR Connor Landberg, TE Shayne Gottlob and long snapper Matt Peitz. 
However, Sumner (thumb surgery) is well ahead of schedule - he’s cleared to do everything except face a live defensive line – and all of the players are expected to be back in time for fall camp.

The most substantial addition since the end of the season: Ty Soulek, an offensive lineman from Yankton. He was cleared to transfer from Northern Iowa and is practicing with SDSU. 
But don’t be surprised to see a junior college player or two added by fall camp. Safety and receiver remain the primary targets. 

A couple of young linebackers - and brothers of older Jacks - have caught the attention of coach John Stiegelmeier early in spring ball: linebackers Blake Krings and Tom Peitz. Both are true freshmen from rural Nebraska. Krings wasn’t even included in the 2012 media guide, while Peitz spent the fall as a running back due to a shortage and wound up on the travel roster. 
"They’re really done some nice things," Stiegelmeier said. "Physically, they have a lot to learn." 

Corner Joe Martinson is not with the team this spring due to a violation of team rules, according to Stiegelmeier. He remains in school and will be given the opportunity to earn a spot on the team through the try-out process, if he choses. An upcoming junior from Orlando, Martinson did not redshirt as a true freshman, but went backward on the depth chart as a sophomore.

Stiegelmeier pointed to penalties as an area of emphasis this spring. How does a team practice NOT doing something?
"It’s discipline in a lot of situations," he explained. "We preach it and when it happens we highlight the fact that it’s unacceptable as opposed to saying, ‘Such is life; we’ll take care of that in the fall.’ And our coaches are on board. It’s been fun to watch and listen and see the emphasis on that."   

Former SDSU receiver Aaron Rollin said that he has a workout with the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday. The club is one of 18 in the NFL that has shown interest.
Meanwhile, upcoming seniors offensive tackle Bryan Witzmann and corner Winston Wright are ranked 25th and 69th at their respective positions among 2014 draft prospects, according to

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Too Much TV: Nagy

This week, South Dakota State men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy joins the podcast to reflect on his program’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament.

Here’s the link.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Midday audio

The men’s basketball coaches from Baylor and South Dakota State met the media (in a telephonic sense) on Monday in advance of their NCAA Division I tournament showdown on Thursday in Albuquerque.

I recorded the comments of Scott Drew and Scott Nagy just in case you were interested.

Here’s the link.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

South Dakota State men’s basketball coach talks about the season, Nate Wolters and the upcoming Summit League tournament in this video interview.

Want more Summit League talk? Stop by at 2 p.m. Friday for a live, interactive tournament preview show from the Arena featuring guests Austin Hansen (SDSU assistant) and Tyler Merriam (SDSU broadcaster).

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

SDSU basketball media day

South Dakota State held its annual winter and spring media day Thursday in Brookings. Once again, the focus was on basketball.

Here’s a short Q and A with each coach. Same topics, even.

Aaron Johnston, SDSU women’s basketball coach:

Q. Your impressions of the returning players?
A. I like all of our returners - Jill (Young) and Jennie (Sunnarborg), our two seniors, have had very good offseasons and look like seniors. That’s what you want. That other group that’s the big kind of question mark is that junior class with Leah (Dietel), Ashley (Eide), Steph (Paluch), Katie (Lingle) and Tara (Heiser). That group has really taken a big step forward. All of them have taken kind of backup roles or had some injuries, some things that have maybe slowed them down, and now they’ve grown into more significant players for us.

Q. And how have the newcomers been?
A. All four of our freshmen really have done well. Gabby (Boever) - it’s the first she’s played basketball in almost due years so she is truly a freshman- and Rachel (Wolters) and Mariah (Clarin) and Megan (Stuart), all four of them have been very good in practice. Megan and Mariah as post players have a chance to play right away. They’re very talented. Rachel shoots the ball really well and that’s always an important part of our offense. Gabby’s really our only true point guard so there’s things she brings that some of our other players don’t have the background to do. I’m really excited about all of them.

Q. Where are things overall with about two weeks until the opener?
A. Good. I like where we’re at. Defensively, we’re not as good as we need to be right now. That’s a big concern. It’s something I thought we had to address last year, talk a lot about. And as we got better with that part of our game, we were a much better team. In terms of taking care of the ball, I think we’ve been better so far this year. We’ll have to see what it’s going to be like against other teams and other defensive schemes, but two areas we’ve struggled with we’ve been much better. 

Scott Nagy, SDSU men’s basketball coach:

Q. Your impressions of the returning players?
A. My guess is the guy that will make the biggest jump in terms of stats is going to be Chad (White). And he has to, he needs to for us and I think he will. With the freedom we’ll give him - he doesn’t have to replace Clint (Sargent), but I think in terms of production, I think he will. I think he’s a better defender. I know he’s a better rebounder. So he gives us some things at that position. He doesn’t score like Clint; he’s not off the dribble. But he’s still going to score points and he makes players around him a lot better.

Q. And how have the newcomers been?
A. The three guys right now that I think will have a chance to play are the two Zachs and Taevaunn (Prince). They all could help us. If we stayed healthy, I don’t think there’s enough minutes for all three of them to play. Maybe two and maybe even one. And so we’ll just have to wait and see.
Physically, Taevaunn is the kid that’s the most ready. Even though he’s a freshman, he’s 20-years old and he came in here weighing 210. He’s physically ready and defensively is where I’ve been the most pleased with him. He’s starting to fit in, starting to figure it out.
Monaghan is just super skilled and a lot more athletic than we thought. But at 165 pounds, that’s our concern with him. And Horstman has been good. The thing I say about Zach is what he does well is he doesn’t try to do things he can’t do. He fits in well with good guards around him, he makes good plays and he causes problems because he’s athletic and long. They’re all further along than I expected. 

Q. Where are things overall with about two weeks until the opener?
A. I walked away from yesterday’s practice frustrated, but then the film showed that it was better than I thought. Maybe it was just because we put in some new stuff and guys were confused, but defensively it was better than I thought, which is the most important thing. Offensively, we’ve not been very good in practice. Hopefully, that’s because our defense is better. We’re not shooting the ball very good right now. That will come. We have good shooters. I guess I should be happy that it looks like we’re going to be better defensively.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

SDSU held its annual winter/spring media day Thursday in Brookings. Here’s what Jacks men’s basketball coach Scott Nagy had to say.

Tuesday Tidbits

It’s that time again:

Noticed this billboard along I-29 on Monday - it’s located near the main entrance to Brookings. Take a guess as to what folks inside the SDSU athletic department think about it.

The SDSU volleyball team opens conference play this weekend with a pair of home matches against Western Illinois and IUPUI. The Jacks are 8-4, their best start since going 15-3 to open the 2007 season. They reached the NCAA Division I tournament that year.
On the flip side, SDSU has been swept four times already. That didn’t happen last season until early October.

Catching up on the SDSU men’s basketball schedule that was put out last year, the Jacks have come back to earth after an incredible 2010-11 slate. This season, there will be an early eight-game road trip. The longest homestand: three games.
As for playing the University of North Dakota twice, Jacks coach Scott Nagy hopes to be able to keep the Sioux - or whatever they’ll soon be called - as a frequent non-conference foe, but probably only once a year. SDSU and UND will meet twice in six days this season.
Also, the Nagy said that the Summit League is considering cutting down the number of allowable games against teams from lower classifications from two to one in the future. The NCAA allows four, but the conference has been encouraging its squads to play just two as a way to help boost overall RPI.

SDSU is in the process of interviewing the finalists for the next phase of the potential stadium and indoor fieldhouse projects, according to president David Chicoine. Some firms are on both lists.
"By the end of the month, we hope to have their process completed and have the firms on board and begin the work," he said.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Tuesday Tidbits

Must be guarantee-game week because I’m doing multiple interviews with out-of-state media outlets. Always feels strange.

And, now, the news:

A little more background on recent SDSU basketball signing Taevaunn Prince: His prep coach at Proctor Academy in New Hampshire, Gregor Makechnie said that Prince had an offer from Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2009-10 and intended to accept it. However, he didn’t meet all the academic requirements until May and by that time someone else had taken the spot.
Makenchie described Prince this way: Natural scorer. Strong. Presents offensive match-up problems. Competitive.

There was a bit of a snag in Scott Nagy’s recent trip to Zimbabwe. Due to issues with the government, he wasn’t able to take part in the passing out of shoes with Samaritan’s Feet. Fortunately, the people did eventually get their shoes and Nagy still had a powerful stay.
"The main thing I took away from all of this is the impact you can have in a moment on somebody," Nagy said. "I know that you can impact people through relationships, but one of the things I learned being around Manny (from Samaritan’s Feet) and watching him and knowing his story is that you can also impact people in one moment if you keep your eyes open and see what people need. That’s always been hard for me. I’m a task-oriented guy and don’t always have my eyes open to what people need." 

SDSU cross country coach thinks that Southern Utah’s Cam Levins might be the most outstanding athlete in the Summit League this year regardless of sport. Levins is the reigning Canadian national cross country champ and is regarded as the second-best distance runner in that country.

Saturday marked the end of an era as radio announcer Steve Imming watched the SDSU football game from the sidelines instead of calling it from the pressbox. The longtime WNAX employee has semi-retired after working Jacks football and men’s basketball games for 19 years. He called it the most meaningful job of his career.
What will Imming miss the most?
"Being in the booth and calling the play-by-play," he said. "It’s something that I wanted to do all my life. Even though in radio you do a whole bunch of things from spinning records to doing news and commercials and so forth, you always live for the one or two days a week when you get to do play-by-play."

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

International intrigue

You’re getting a bonus blog today in light of the long-in-the-works news that South Dakota State has added two more scholarship players in men’s basketball for 2011-12. Some addition info about guards Samuel Francis and Taevaunn Prince:

Picture below, Francis is a 6-foot-3 combo guard who has had extensive experience with various Bulgarian national teams as evident in these clips. Jacks coach Scott Nagy used the word “explosive” in describing him.
Expounding on that, Francis might look a little bit like Dale Moss out on the court. He’s not quite the leaper that Moss was, but is better laterally and more of a ball handler and shooter than Moss. The staff hopes that he can play a similar role defensively.
Francis has also benefited from playing against older players and will turn 20 himself this school year. In that regard, he’s more mature than most freshmen and ready to contribute.

Pictured above, Prince is also 6-foot-3, but thicker at about 205 pounds - that’s down almost 30 from his peak. He’s a strong, playmaking point guard. had him rated 193rd nationally at his position coming out of a New Hampshire prep school in 2010 and had offers from Wisconsin-Green Bay and St. Bonaventure. Here’s his highlight reel.
Why didn’t he play anywhere in 2010-11?
"I don’t know exactly what his reasons are," Nagy said, "but it’s fortunate for us."
From Toronto, Ont., Prince has spent the last year working out with his former club coach.

Both players have been committed to SDSU for some time, but only arrived in Brookings on Monday after completing the extensive paperwork required of international students. Both are eligible right away and can play for four years.

This bumps the Jacks up to 12 scholarship players for next year - just one below the NCAA max.
And while would SDSU like to have another big or two in that mix, Nagy claims to feel good about the situation.
"We just have better depth," he said. "The way we look at it, we can go out and try and get a 6-10 kid just because he’s 6-10 and there’s some of those out there. But we didn’t feel like they’re good enough. We’re better off recruiting big guards like Sam and Taevaunn. I think we’ll be OK doing it that way. I love having big guards and it helps."

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

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