The Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Basketball Championships start Saturday but this year, the tournament is more than just matchups and trophies. The NCAA is stressing community involvement for the schools involved and it's earning Division II some new fans.
Bringing new meaning to the word crossover, USF basketball players took to Laura B. Anderson Elementary Friday morning to spend time with some young Sioux Falls students.
"Just to see our kids interact with these young kids. Some of these kids have huge eyes and some of the questions they ask are really cute. We have a lot of kids, this tournament that we're playing in is more than just basketball. When you can give back to the community and have our kids enjoy doing this, it's something special," USF women's basketball coach Travis Traphagen said.
Eight of the sixteen teams playing in the NSIC Tournament were at Sioux Falls schools today reading to kids and answering questions.
With eight National Championships coming to town over the next couple years, the NCAA is pushing community involvement and is using these activities as a blueprint for future events.
"We want the community to really embrace Division II because we're going to embrace the community when we come here over the next few years long term. So we want to build bridges right now with the youth in this community. Bring them into our championship. Not just come out but bring them into our games and involve them as much as we can," NCAA Division II Associate Director Josh Looney said.
The USF women's basketball team has spent time in the community before, but this time it was a chance to talk basketball.
Players like freshman Brynn Flakus spent an hour in the classroom. If the Cougars can compete on the court as good as Flakus can interact with students here, they'll be in fine shape come Saturday night.
"From the coaches standpoint, we put in a lot of hours. We're ready for the game. Maybe this even relaxes the kids," Traphagen said.
Action gets underway from the Sanford Pentagon Saturday at noon. There are plenty of tickets available. For more information, click here.