Hoops headlines

The South Dakota State basketball programs aren’t ready just yet to let football assume the spotlight.

On Tuesday, SDSU women’s assistant Emilee Thiesse was announced as the new head coach at Minnesota State, becoming the second member of the staff to leave this summer for a top job at a Division II school. (Plus, a one-time Jacks assistant, Travis Brewster, took over at North Dakota.)
According to SDSU coach Aaron Johnston, Thiesse was instrumental in recruiting, worked with guards and put together the 2012-13 schedule, a new responsibility.
The Jacks have two options in terms of finding a replacement: Do a full and standard search, which could take 4-5 weeks, or make a so-called emergency hire. In that case, somebody would be brought in on a one-year interim basis, after which the full process would be completed.
“I don’t look at this as bad timing at all,” said Johnston, who wrapped up an assistant search in late June. “When you lose a good coach, it doesn’t matter when they leave - you’re losing good people, and that means you have to go out and find more good people.”

Meanwhile, the SDSU men gained two people as Pierre wing Lane Severyn and Alexandria, Minn., forward Logan Doyle both gave verbal commitments Wednesday for 2013. The 6-foot-5 Severyn sat on the scholarship offer for more than two years before pulling the trigger. The 6-8 Doyle waited roughly one day.
In fact, Doyle didn’t have any offers heading into the summer, according to his hometown paper. He didn’t play much varsity until his junior year, growing from 6-5 to 6-8 in a year and averaging 13.2 points and 11.1 boards.
He wound up with a bunch of offers from NSIC schools plus SDSU and Western Illinois, the teams that met in the Summit League championship game. He reportedly also had walk-on talks with Minnesota.
“I really like the coaches a lot,” said Doyle, who had taken an unofficial visit to Brookings before getting an offer. “The players are great and then just the athletic facilities are really, really nice, too. Just pretty much the whole package.”
Including the style of play. Doyle thinks he fits in with the motion scheme. Severyn said the same thing – that on-floor fit was important. He hopes to improve the consistency of his shot and develop his pull-up game prior to starting college. Governors coach Terry Becker described him as a gym rat.
“I wanted to go somewhere I could make an impact quick,” Severyn said, “and it’s a nice thing to be a home-grown person and go to South Dakota State and come from the Capital City - it means a little more to us.”

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Wolters goes camping

South Dakota State star Nate Wolters attended an elite summer camp run by a show company and wound up raising his draft stock. Sound familiar?

Yes, just six weeks after participating in the Kevin Durant Nike Skills Academy, the senior point guard made good on an invite to Adidas Nations Global in Los Angeles, an international and tournament that wrapped Monday. Wolters was there as one of 31 college counselors, the group helping the high school kids with drills and then splitting up into teams for a series of scrimmages.

Plus, there were a bunch of NBA scouts (Wolters estimated 20-25) and current NBA players (including Dwight Howard) on hand to watch. (So was at least one media outlet, which conducted a video interview).

How did it go? Well, pictures of the boxscores made their way into the Interwebs. My math says that Wolters averaged 14 points, 4.5 assists and 3.7 rebounds, going 22 of 35 from the floor, 5 of 11 from deep and 7 of 7 from the foul line. His best showing: 21 points, 7 boards, 4 dimes while playing alongside touted Kentucky recruit Nerlens Noel.

"It was pretty fun," Wolters said of teaming up with a potential No. 1 overall pick. "Just the athleticism is a lot different than what I’m sued to. You can throw a little more lobs to the big guys."

Other things that stood out from his time at the camp:
* Adidas had a definite presence. There were shoe reps on hand and players were given some swag, as allowed by NCAA rules. It was similar with Nike at the Durant camp. But with SDSU moving to Under Armor, Wolters said that the camp gear will be reserved for lounging around at home.
* Baylor guard Pierre Jackson was also at the camp. He and Wolters chatted a bit, but not about their NCAA tournament meeting.
* Several former NBA players coached the prep and college campers including Eddie Johnson, Reggie Theus, LaSalle Thompson and Don McLean.
* Nine of the 31 college players were from outside the power conferences. Murray State had two in Isaiah Canaan and Ed Daniel.

All told, Wolters feels good about the way the summer has gone so far. But he’s also looking forward to a couple of weeks at home in St. Cloud to recharge. With these individual-driven camps in the rearview, his focus will shift back to Brookings.

"They’re fun for the summer, but I’m definitely looking forward to the season and getting back to the team and practicing and all that," he said. "It was a good experience, but you’re ready to get back home. It’s a long couple days."

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Too Much TV: Ryan Miller

The summer basketball circuit is in full swing, meaning coaches are pounding the pavement and racking up frequent flier miles in order to land commitments from future players.

That’s our topic this week on Too Much TV. The guest: Ryan Miller former Mitchell High and Northern State standout and current University of Missouri assistant. We also get into some NBA talk as Miller had a front-row seat to watch his brother, Mike, and the Miami Heat win a championship.

Here’s the link.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Hanson + Creighton = perfect sense

A little bonus blog for you in response to the news that Pierre (and Dakota Schoolers) forward Zach Hanson has given a verbal commitment to play men’s basketball at Creighton.

For as much as local fans figured the 6-foot-9 would either go big (he had offers from Nebraska, Missouri and Iowa State) or stay close to home (SDSU, USD, NDSU), the Bluejays are perhaps the perfect fit in terms of what he was looking for. Relatively close to home, top-10 fan support, a history of success (17 NCAA tournament berths) and the potential to play early.

Plus, Jays coach Greg McDermott is a proven coach with strong Midwest ties who runs a system that can do big things with skilled big men (i.e. Doug McDermott, an All-American last season).

Thinking he might stay in SoDak was little more than wishful thinking on the part of fans – even after SDSU made the Big Dance. Hanson’s top five were all out of state. There’s nothing wrong with his line of thinking and there’s nothing wrong with the local coaches who didn’t land him. In this case, Creighton simply had more to offer. 

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

For your consideration

Summit League basketball teams have begun releasing their schedules for the upcoming season. While the Dakota schools have yet to join the mix, we know what the conference portion will look like. Sort of.

That is, the conference has posted on its Web site the 2012-13 schedules for all men’s and women’s league games. They are different than in recent years for two reasons: the inception of mirror scheduling (meaning the men and women play the same nights at opposite locations) and lineup changes – Oral Roberts and Southern Utah are out, Nebraska-Omaha is in.

Now, there will be 16 conference games instead of 18. For the women, that means no more awkward early December dates; they’ll start Summit play the week of Dec. 28 and plow through for 10 weekends in a row. The men will still have that weird sneak-peak weekend starting Nov. 29 due to league-wide involvement in BracketBusters on Feb. 23.

However, this slate isn’t set in stone. The order is unlikely to change, but schools have the ability to make changes to better fit their priorities. Those negotiations are ongoing, and there’s much to consider.

For example, the schedule currently calls for the SDSU men to play at USD on Jan. 5, the same day that the SDSU women host USD. Obviously, that’s not ideal for either school given that it’ll divide fan interest and media attention.

So maybe the Jacks and Yotes decide to move a game to avoid the conflict. If they agree to, say, push the women’s game to Sunday afternoon, that’s pretty much the end of the story – only the involved schools have to sign off on a change. However, a proposed change that would impact a third or fourth school (most likely a travel partner) would have to be approved by everybody involved. That kind of consent is likely more difficult.

Another major consideration: Media coverage. What does SDSU – a school that puts an honest effort into treating both teams the same – do in terms of radio broadcasts when the men and women play at the same time in different cities? That’s led the Jacks to consider the idea of staggered start times. However, that also requires cooperation on the part of opponents - what if both schools move their tip times and end up recreating the conflict?
TV is a part of this, too. SDSU and USD recently signed agreements with Midco Sports Net to broadcast a certain number of home games - that means start times will have to fit in with station availability.

There are a few relatively easy league dates in which the SDSU men and the women are unlikely to overlap: Dec. 1 (men vs. UNO), Dec. 29 (men at NDSU), Dec. 30 (women vs. NDSU), Feb. 21 (women vs. UNO), Feb. 28 (men at UNO), March 2 (women at NDSU). But as things stand right now, there would be 22 conflicts – up from zero in 2011-12. The athletic administrators are going to earn their paychecks in trying to trim that.

Just some information to keep in mind when the schedules do come out.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Level-headed recruiting

Wednesday was a biggie on the NCAA Division I men’s basketball calendar – the start of three four-day recruiting periods for the summer. That’s a format change from two 10-day windows.

South Dakota State had some staffers on the road Tuesday night, coach Scott Nagy said, so that they could get to Washington, D.C., Indianapolis, Chicago and Milwaukee to scout talent. That’s just the first cycle.

Actually, assistants Austin Hansen, Rob Klinkefus and Brian Cooley will do most of the scouting for new talent, while Nagy will focus his time on being seen by players the Jacks already know and like. Either way, this is an interesting summer circuit for the program, which (as you might have heard) is coming off its first NCAA Division I tournament berth.

Winning the Summit League championship was instrumental in gaining two commitments during the spring singing period, but SDSU doesn’t have any known verbals for 2013 (or beyond). There are four openings in that class, and Nagy would like to have at least two wrapped up in the early signing period. That would give the Jacks four acquisitions (at least; they continue to wait out some things for 2012) between their 2011-12 finale and their 2012-13 season opener.

Numerically, that’s about average (13 scholarship spots divided by four classes). But quality is more important than quantity. That’s where things get interesting.

Now that SDSU is an “NCAA tournament team,” it figures to be in a position to land recruits who aren’t short on D-I scholarship options. That may require patience … and multiple back-up plans. While there are differences between football and basketball, SDSU and NDSU both struggled on the gridiron after an early wave of success at the D-I level. Why? In part because they aimed higher in terms of recruiting and subsequently missed out on some of the kids they would normally get. Are the Jacks guarded against a similar situation in hoops?

Nagy addressed that this way: SDSU has long had to recruit more players than most because some rule out the program for reasons not directly related to hoops (location, for example), and some of its best recent players didn’t have many D-I offers.

"We’ve been able to identify those people who fit the mold of what we like and what will fit in here," he said.

In other words, the Jacks don’t have to change the way they evaluate prospects just because prospects might have changed the way they view the Jacks. The onus will be on the staff to see things clearly – that is, avoid fixating on next-level players – and move in a timely manner.

It’s another wrinkle in the ever-changing world of recruiting.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

The future, man

As has become custom, I attended the Dakota Showcase recently to case out some future South Dakota State basketball players (since I never get to see high school kids play during the prep season).

Here are my very (very) amateur (and short-term) scouting reports on the three who have given verbal commitments to the Jackrabbits.

Macy Miller, 5-11, Jr., point guard, Mitchell:
Although she has two years left of high school and still may not be 100 percent due to a year-old injury to her left knee, Miller (above) is tall and strong and unlike anybody that has run the point for SDSU in my six years covering the team.
She can see over the defense, is poised to the point of making things look easy and/or to be moving in slow motion and seems to set up the half-court offense with a sort of quiet authority. Miller also rebounds well and has a mature mid-range game. She said she’s working on her 3-point shot going forward.
Multiple high school coaches have told me that they always figured her for a Big Ten or Big 12 player, and it doesn’t take much time to see why.

Kaitlyn Severyn, 6-foot, Jr., guard/forward, Pierre:
Technically sound, meaning she pivots well, properly uses her elbows to clear space and can defend probably three positions. Severyn also has good size and is athletic. Her summer coach believes she’ll be better in college than in high school (not unlike another Pierre-to-SDSU kid, Katie Lingle).
That said, she reminds me of upcoming SDSU sophomore Zach Horstman – well-rounded, versatile and team-oriented. I call these kids, “plug-and-play,” meaning they’re ready to go and fit right into any system. (Her brother, Lane, another kid with an offer from SDSU, has some of those same tendencies, in my opinion.)

Kerri Young, 6-foot, Sr., guard/forward, Mitchell:
In just a few minutes of playing, Young did the following things: sneak out on the break, lead the break, finish on the break and pass for a score on the break. Yes, she loves to run and has a knack for scoring.
My best guess is that she’ll be a 2 or a 3 for the Jacks, but in certain situations could see spot duty as a 4 or maybe even a 1 – she’s that multidimensional and skilled.
Again, I can’t put my finger on what one current or former SDSU player she resembles, but has pieces from several recent 1,000-point scorers.

The bottom line: There’s no telling what the future holds for these three. But they seems to fit into the SDSU system in terms of style of play and their in-state roots, while also bringing some unique elements. What’s more, they represent a mere half of the verbals currently on record (Chynna Stevens, Tiffany Flaata and Clarissa Ober being the others). To be able to work that far in advance is a rare luxury at the mid-major level.  

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Wolters to Durant

The offseason goal of finding new opportunities for South Dakota State upcoming senior Nate Wolters is off to a strong start.

From June 24-26, the Jackrabbits’ star point guard will participate in the Kevin Durant Nike Elite Youth Basketball Skills Academy in Chicago. The third-annual event bills itself as a top gathering of swingmen and has a high school and a college division. (Before you ask: No, Wolters, isn’t moving to the wing and, no, SDSU isn’t going back on its decision to move from Nike to Under Armour. Apparently, he’s good enough to overcome those things.)

In 2010, just 11 college players were chosen, headlined by eventual top-20 NBA draft picks Chris Singleton and Alec Burks plus soon-to-be lottery pick Harrison Barnes. The pool opened to 18 last year, including Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Duke’s Austin Rivers and Oral Roberts’ Dominique Morrison. Among the confirmed for this year: Rodney McGruber of Kansas State, Adonis Thomas of Memphis and Jordan Clarkson of Mizzou.

SDSU assistant Austin Hansen is largely credited with getting the 6-foot-4 Wolters into the camp, something he made happen by working his (growing) NBA contacts.

The camp will consist of five separate workout sessions over three days, and will be open to NBA scouts. To that end, Wolters will be able to test his skills against elite college players and show what he might be capable of at the next level. ESPN.com insider Chad Ford currently has Wolters, the only NCAA Division I player to average at least 20 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists last season, ranked 85th overall in the 2013 draft poll and 14th at point guard.

Durant, a three-time NBA scoring champion at the tender age of 23, usually attends and participates, but that is up in the air because he and the Thunder could be playing in the NBA Finals as late as June 26. (Here’s a story from his web site about last year’s edition.)

Either way, this camp feels like the defacto beginning of the 2012-13 season for Wolters and the Jacks. It won’t be long before folks start to find out how much they’ve improved and how they’ll handle being the hunted.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Lincoln luxury

In Sunday’s edition, I caught up with South Dakota native Tim Miles, the new men’s basketball coach at Nebraska. While the piece centered on his journey from a town of 150 to the Big Ten, one of the subplots was the Huskers’ renewed (or is it just plain new?) to hoops.

Frankly, that was the No. 1 takeaway from my trip to Lincoln.

Never mind the $180 million arena that’s going up in the Haymarket arena - that’s only half finished. The offices and training facility attached to the backside of the Devaney Center was downright mind-blowing in a couple of different ways. (Click here for pics and a video tour.)

For starters, Nebraska has iPads built into lockers, TVs in bathroom stalls and 400 inches of screens in a posh players lounge. It’s said to be in the top 5 percent of such facilities in the country. That’s going to appeal to recruits who like shiny things. But it won’t win games.

What may win games, or at least should help in that front: access to an extensive nutrition system, an army of strength coaches and unbelievable fitness technology. For example, some of the squad racks are fitted with a video scanner that checks athletes on their form and their personal exertion percentage. 

It’s incredible. Once the arena is finished, Nebraska won’t want for much other than tradition.

As I toured the facility with Miles, one thought crossed my mind: How can a school like South Dakota State compete with this, beat Nebraska? It can, of course, but it’s a huge challenge. And that is part of what makes the NCAA Division I level so interesting. It is a gigantic pond that’s anything but level.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Summit backs off on schedule restriction

The Summit League has changed its mind on limiting men’s basketball teams to just one lower-level opponent in 2012-13. Instead, schools will be allowed to schedule two, same as recent years and still half the number allowed at the NCAA Division I level.

Conference coaches were in favor of sticking with two, largely because it’s just generally difficult to get home games without forking out stacks of cash.

Summit media relations director David Brauer cited three reasons for the reversal: The reduction in the number of league games from 18 to 16; balancing the number of home and road games in light of the entire league participating in BracketBusters; and the coaches have been doing a better job of scheduling in a way to help RPI.

South Dakota State, for one, agrees with the move and expects to take advantage of the break by scheduling two non-Division I clubs. That’s according to assistant Rob Klinkefus, who handles the Jacks’ scheduling.

Brauer said the issue will be revisited after the 2012-13 season, which also marks the beginning of mirror scheduling.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

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