BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO)- The SDSU Jackrabbits were 28-7 a year ago and made a trip to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. Following the Jackrabbits historic season, State lost two of the best players in school history in Maddie Guebert and Macy Miller.
“Well we graduated a lot of scoring last year. We graduated a lot of perimeter shooting with Maddie and Macy and so when you lose people that are iconic in those areas, you certainly change. We have a lot of talent coming back though. I think people really forget that. We have three starters returning, we have a couple players coming off the bench who have played a lot for us and we play a lot bigger roles this year,” SDSU Head Coach Aaron Johnston said.
“Every season we have a couple new faces and a lot of new roles. I think we’ve done a good job of buying into that and just finding ways where we can all excel with each other and I think something that makes us good is our ability to just play off each other and just play to each other strengths,” SDSU Junior forward Myah Selland said.
Guebert and Miller combined for 32 points per game last season and now the Jacks will need to fill in the holes that the duo left behind.
“Last year we scored a lot from the perimeter and this year we’re going to have to score in different ways, by more attacking the basket and getting to the free throw line. We’re a lot longer, this year’s team will be a lot longer on the perimeter and inside. So it’ll be different, but some of that will give us new doors we can open as well,” Johnston said.
Despite losing one of the top duo’s to play in school history, the Jacks return ten players including including Myah Selland, Tagyn Larson and Tylee Irwin, who combined for 30 points per game a year ago.
“I really like where Myah’s at right now, I like where Tagyn is at, I like where Rylie’s at and Megan Bultsma a Senior who brings great Senior leadership to our team. I like where that group is at. Our juniors and seniors with what they do on the floor with be phenomenal again this year,” Johnston said.
“It’s exciting kind of watching and mentoring the younger kids coming in and trying to help them be the best players that they can be and then they also make me the best player I can be. It’s been awesome getting to know the younger people and getting to help them,” SDSU redshirt Senior Tagyn Larson forward said.
The biggest loss for the Jackrabbits will be in late game situations as Maddie and Macy gave the team some valuable crunch time points.
“The big difference will be is that Maddie and Macy in particular gave the team so much confidence in close games. They made a lot of big shots late in games that either helped us secure a win or maybe come back. This year, it’s going to have to be different people and we’re going to have to have some people grow into those roles, because that’s more of a confidence role, that’s a presence role and you don’t really know until you get into those situations,” Johnston said.
The Summit League preseason coaches poll estimated that SDSU would finish second in the Summit, behind in state rival USD.
“I think the preseason ratings went about as most people expected. USD probably has the largest group of returners on the floor that is playing. For us, we lose two of our leadings scorers, two of our all time leading scorers and people are going to wonder how we replace that and so I think the rankings from top to bottom, went about as expected,” Johnston said.
“I mean there are a lot of great teams in the Summit League and in the past, people may have looked at it that way, but I think that we never look at it that way. Every game is important and you never know who is going to step up and have a great year in the summit league. We don’t look at it as just us and USD,” Larson said.
Even though the Jacks lost three important Seniors, this year’s team will look to continue the winning tradition at SDSU.
“We’re going to adapt and obviously, losing them was an adjustment at first, but we’re going to find a way to get it done, find a way to kind of make up for what they brought to the table with some of our new players and returning players. It’s just a tradition of success that we’re looking to continue,” Larson said.
The Jacks host St. Cloud State in an exhibition game on October 30 in Brookings. State will play their first game on November 8 against Drake in Des Moines.