The South Dakota State men’s basketball team starts the season next Tuesday (October 5) at home in a WAC-Summit showdown against UT Rio Grande Valley.
Daum is gone. Jenkins has moved on. Otzelberger is running the Runnin’ Rebs in Vegas. The Jacks have to replace 85% of their scoring and 2/3 of their rebounds and assists and how are they going to do that and yada, yada, yada.
But to those who are sure the Jacks will fall to the middle of The Summit League pack this year – and in honor of the great orator Lee Corso who graced us on ESPN College Gameday last weekend – I say not so fast, my friend.
Why? Well, the Jacks are an intriguing mix of reclaimed point guards, left-handed small forwards, freshmen firepower, sophomore leadership, untapped post potential and high-profile transfers. More on the last, first.
OK to Play
SDSU recently got word from the NCAA that David Wingett (pronounced Win-jet) is eligible to play this season.
“He really deserves this,” said Jackrabbit head coach Eric Henderson. “There are waivers through the NCAA for a reason, and we went through the paperwork and the process, and the outcome certainly was beneficial for us. Really excited for David to get the opportunity and not lose a year, to be honest.”
Wingett is 6'7" and a fabulous three-point shooter. In conversation, he gives off a Keanu Reeves kind of vibe. He went to high school in Winnebago, NE, 20 miles south of Sioux City, and then went to prep school for a year in North Carolina. A breakout year at Bull City Prep Academy earned him scholarship offers. Wichita State and Vanderbilt wanted him, but Wingett chose to play for Penny Hardaway at the University of Memphis.
Early in his freshman year (last year), however, he broke his left leg in practice and had to sit out last season as a redshirt. Wingett had a lot of time to think about where he really wanted to be and who really wanted him.
“Being in Memphis was a lot of hours from home,” he said. “It made me realize a lot of things and what is important to me. Being two and a half hours from home is a lot better feeling. I benefit a lot from it and then the connection with Coach Hendo. I have known him for a couple of years and really trust him as a person.”
And Henderson is confident that Wingett will be a big boost to the Jackrabbit lineup.
“His chance to come in and make an impact on our team right away is really special,” said the first-year head coach. “His ability to shoot the three, his athleticism, his fight. He is going to compete like crazy, and he’s a fun player to watch. He needs to slow down, but that is the same for a lot of our young guys. We are excited for David and his ability to impact our team this year.”
"Slippery" Juco Help
Another impact transfer for the Jacks is just above Wingett on the alphabetical roster. Douglas Wilson was the National Junior College Player of the Year last season after leading Kirkwood Community College (of Iowa) to the Division II National Championship. Wilson had 30 points and 14 rebounds in the national final. And pooh-pooh the juco numbers if you want, but Wilson can play.
“His athleticism is incredible,” said Henderson. “Defensively, his ability to guard multiple guys on the floor is really special. We are able to do different things defensively that we haven’t been able to do in the past.”
Henderson can see Wilson making a home around the rim on both ends of the floor this season.
“He does such a good job of eating up that space and attacking that space," he said. "He is so slippery around the rim, and his ability to finish around the rim in multiple ways is special, but I know Jackrabbits are going to love this guy.”
Wilson originally committed to the Jacks when T.J. Otzelberger was still the head coach, and he had to decide whether to stay in Brookings when Otzelberger left for UNLV.
“I wouldn’t say it was a hard decision,” says Wilson, “because when I found out Coach Hendo got the job and talking to him as a person, I really knew he was a really good guy and somebody I would love to play for, too. So, I felt like I was still in a good situation regardless if T.J. was here or not.”
So, there you go. Two fresh faces with great games to help Jacks fans move on into what is truly a new era for the SDSU men. They will be young (two seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and five freshman), but they just might be pretty good this year.
Spot-On Individual Assessments
Here are my impressions/thoughts/astute observations on the rest of the 2019-20 Jackrabbits.
Brandon Key (Senior)
He came to SDSU after two seasons at Juco and played for one year. He went nuts from the three-point line against Ohio State in the NCAA tournament. He sat out last year, but is back for his senior season. He likes to play faaaaaaaast.
Beau Brown (Senior)
The Beau Show! A two-time Summit League Walk-On of the Year, he's a pre-game half-court shot master and bench celebration choreographer. He has been a Western Illinois killer, with both career three-pointers coming against the Leathernecks.
Tray Buchanan (Junior)
He played 31 games at North Dakota as freshman. Last year, he played at Des Moines Area Community College (19 ppg). He's tough, physical, and a scrappy defender. He and Key beat the crap out of each other in their matchup when UND and SDSU played in Brookings in 2017.
Alou Dillon (Sophomore)
He's "looking good," according to Henderson. It's his third year in program. He's physically gifted, though he will play with one of those creepy plastic masks on his face to start the season after a teammate broke his nose in practice with a stray elbow.
Owen King (Sophomore)
His athleticism comes out of his assist-to-turnover ratio. We'll see how his role changes with the addition of Key and Buchanan. His younger brother, Noah, will join the Jacks next year.
Matt Dentlinger (Sophomore)
He's called "Matty Ice," "Big Dent," and "Hay Bale". (!) He's a rebound vacuum and put-back machine. He's wicked smart, and is the unofficial team tutor for mathematics. He listed 10 pounds lighter than last year, but looks like he got bigger and stronger.
Alex Arians (Sophomore)
He had 24 starts last year as true freshman, and his five rebounds per game last year is most among returning players. It took him a while to figure out what he was doing and where he was supposed to be, but he started to really get it mid-season. He will be a (soft spoken) veteran voice even though he's just in his second year.
Baylor Scheierman (Freshman)
He's 6'6" with ape arms. A smart lefty, he could start. He can also play point if Jacks want to go with an all 6’6” and over lineup.
Noah Freidel (Freshman)
“Fred” is the mighty Titan from Tea, SD. He's raw and rangy, and we saw him score 33 at the Sanford Pentagon against the number one high school team in the country (La Lumiere of Indiana). If his head is in the game, he can ball.
Matt Mims (Freshman)
He was a great high school player in Iowa two years ago. I have only seen him shoot in practice, but the jump shot is really good.
Aaron Fiegen (Freshman)
He's Tony’s little brother, though not a redhead.