Sunday, September 9, 2012

SDSU Continues to Recruit MN "Bigs"

For the 1st time since 2007, the South Dakota State Jackrabbits will not have a 6-foot-plus freshman forward from Minnesota on their roster.

Still, there are 5 such women on the SDSU roster this year: Mariah Clarin, Leah Dietel, Hannah Strop, Megan Stuart and Megan Waytashek.

And not only that, but the parade will be resumed in 2013 and 2014. The Minnesota high school class of 2013 will be represented in Brookings by Tiffany Flaata of Prior Lake and Clarissa Ober of Glencoe-Silver Lake.

Here's a post from 2 years ago that explored this phenomenon, with some more new material at the end.

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.

EDIT/New Stuff:

In 2011, Sunnarborg joined the starting lineup and scored 13 points with 4 boards and shot 51 percent in 24 minutes. Dietel played 19 minutes as a sophomore, while Waytashek played 17 and Strop 14, both as freshman. The 3 scored 11 points among 'em, with 9.5 rebounds. The Rabbits went 19-13.

In 2012, Sunnarborg closed out her career with 14 points and 6 boards in 26 minutes, while shooting 44 percent. Dietel, now a junior, again played 19 minutes. Strop played 13 minutes as a sophomore. Clarin and Stuart played a combined 11 minutes, and scored 5 points with 3.5 rebounds between 'em. Waytashek played in only 6 games due to injury. All 3 of the returnees, in other words, saw their production decline, and none of the 5 (other than Sunnarborg) shot as well as even 40 percent.

So the 2013 roster now includes:

Clarin, now a sophomore. I had rated her as the #14 recruit in MN in 2011.
Dietel, now a senior. #19 in 2009.
Strop, now a junior. #16 in 2010.
Stuart, now a sophomore. #17 in 2011.
Waytashek, still a sophomore due to her injury a year ago. #4 in 2010.

You'd have to say the whole group has not really blossomed for coach Johnston. On paper, Waytashek, #4 in her class and scoring 4 ppg as a freshman, has the most upside, though we will have to see how she has recovered from her injuries. Dietel has been a particular disappointment, her scoring actually falling from 4 to 3.5 ppg between her sophomore and junior seasons. She has been dogged by a particular reluctance to shoot the ball, as if she thought that Brittney Chambers was still out there with her. She averaged just 3 FGA in 19 minutes last year, less than 1/3 as many as Sunnarborg took.

Still the prospects for 2013 are good. 2 of 4 full-time starters--Ashley Eide and Steph Paluch --return, along with Dietel and Katie Lingle, who split the 4th starting spot. I would expect Waytashek to be the 5th starter if she is healthy.

As noted above, Tiffany Flaata and Clarissa Ober join the Rabbits roster next year. Flaata is a mobile 6-2 forward who plays a little bit young for her age--i.e. she is still learning the game and how to use her size. Ober is also 6-2 but is a clear inside player and presence. I have Ober as the #22 player in the MN class of 2013, and Flaata just #39, making her by far the lowest rated of the many MN "bigs" recruited by SDSU over the past decade (almost).

Then among the 2014s comes Ellen Thompson of Chaska, another 6-2 "big." She plays the post, but more and more she is playing the 4 as Kendall Baab continues to mature for Chaska. I have Thompson as the #6 player in her class, making her the highest rated prospect on this list other than Waytashek. So in 2015 the Rabbits will have seniors Clarin and Stuart, sophomores Flaata and Ober, and freshman Thompson from Minnesota, carrying on in the tradition of Oistad, Boever and Sunnarborg.

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