Here's the May article:
Wow, what is it with the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits women's basketball team? I mean, aside from the fact that, under coach Aaron Johnston, they've become the #1 team in the Ninth Federal Reserve District.
What I mean is that, with a verbal from Mariah Clarin of Princeton, SDSU is now officially hoarding all the 4s (big forwards) from Minnesota that it can get its hands on. This coming year they'll have junior Jenna Sunnarborg from Osseo, sophomore Leah Dietel from Jordan, and freshmen Hannah Strop from New Prague and Megan Waytashek from Centennial. All of that on top of Maria Boever of Worthington, a 2010 graduate, and Stacie Oistad of Sartell, a 2009 grad.
Of course, it would be silly to question whether there's a method to the madness. Of course there is. Johnston became the Jackrabbits' interim head coach late in the 1999-2000 season, and in 10-and-a-half years he's won 248 games while losing 76 (.765). Lest you complain that much of that came in D2, well, that's wrong. It's already 6 years since SDSU joined D1, and they've been even better in D1, winning 143 while losing 43 (.768). Against the Big 10, they're 5-3 (.625). I don't know how Johnston hasn't been picked up by a major school.
So if you're on a roll, and the Jackrabbits most assuredly are that, you keep doing what you're doing. And one of the things they've been doing, again, is hoarding those 4s from Minnesota. Oistad was the prototype. As a senior (in 2009), the 6-footer started 10 games, played in 35 for an average of 21 minutes and scored 8 points with 4 rebounds.
Of course, Oistad had some other notable Minnesotans as teammates, specifically guard Megan Vogel from St. Peter, class of 2007, who finished up as the Jacks' #2 all-time scorer with 1,850 points.
But sticking to the forwards, the next Minnesotan was the 6-1 Boever. Her main claim to fame in these parts (Minneapolis-St. Paul) is making the game-winning shot at the buzzer in a 59-58 upset of the Gophers at Williams Arena in 2007. In 2010, she led the Jacks in scoring and rebounding at 14 points and 7 boards.
Next on board was the 6-2 Sunnarborg, who started 13 games and played in 33 this past year as a sophomore. She scored 8 points per game with 4 boards in 16.5 minutes of play. Meanwhile, the 6-1 Dietel started 4 games and played in 23 for a total of 17 minutes, and shot 50 percent to Sunnarborg's 46 but attempted barely one-quarter as many shots as Sunnarborg did. So she scored just 4 points per game with 4 boards. Sunnarborg also blocked 41 shots while Dietel blocked just 1. That would seem to say something about athleticism or aggressiveness or something.
Joining the fun next year will be the incoming freshmen Strop, a 6-f00ter, and the 6-2 Waytashek, both of whom can play further away from the hoop than Dietel or Sunnarborg but who can also mix it up pretty good inside. Waytashek is probably the most highly regarded Minnesotan the Jacks have ever lured down to the briar patch and one would expect her to contribute right away while Strop, like Dietel, might need a year to get her bearings. This might be Brookings, SD, but it's still D1.
Finally, there's the 5-11 Clarin. She's a 4 in high school and her main claim to fame is her leaping ability. She hasn't been asked to show anything away from the hoop, and so she hasn't. So, as a 4, she seems a bit undersized compared to the girls who have come to Brookings ahead of her. We'll see.
And we'll see if Johnston and his Jacks can keep the momentum going without Boever and Ketty Cornemann, 2 of SDSU's 10-point-plus scorers last year. But the Jacks look good at the guard spots with starters Macie Michelson of Marshall, MN, and Kristin Rotert, and sometime starter Jill Young all returning. Michelson was last year's assist leader with 4 per game to go with 9 points, while Rotert was the #2 scorer at 12.6 ppg. Young started 14 games, scored 8 points per game and was the #2 3-point shooter after Rotert.
Then, up front they've got the aforementioned Minnesotans plus 5-11 senior Jennifer Schuttloffel and 6-2 soph Katie Lingle. If the Jacks go with a 3-guard set, as seems likely, then Sunnarborg and Dietel are next in line in terms of experience, Lingle is next in terms of size, but Waytashek may be next in terms of pure talent.
But it will be the guards who make the Jacks go, or not. Michelson will continue to handle the ball, Rotert and Young will step up the scoring and effectively replace all of the points and more of the departed Boever and Cornemann. The question then is who will replace Rotert's own scoring, and that will have to be Sunnarborg or Dietel or Waytashek.
In summary, the prospects are for something less ambitious than 2009's 32-2 record but equal to or better than last year's 23-11. In order to do that and return to the NCAA tournament,the Jacks' Minnesota forward are going to have to be part of the solution. And considering the number and percentage of scholarships that are going to the breed (Minnesota 4s), they're going to have to be a big part of the Jacks' continuing success for at least the next 5 years.