BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — For the first time in team history, the SDSU men’s basketball team is off to a perfect 6-0 start in Summit League Conference play.
SDSU has started 5-1 in conference play five times over the last ten seasons, but for the first time the Jacks are 6-0 in the Summit League.
That success can be connected to the team’s ability to expand their depth and scoring this season. The maturation of Matt Mims, Luke Appel, Charlie Easley and Zeke Mayo has led to major contributions on the court.
“Those guys have had experience, other than Zeke, so they’ve been able to have opportunities. They know that we have a lot of good players and that minutes, you’ve got to earn them,” SDSU head coach Eric Henderson said. “Being able to accept your role and when your numbers called, to be able to produce, I think those guys have been terrific.”
SDSU sophomore, Baylor Scheierman, has emerged as an all-around weapon for the Jacks. He is second on the team for points per game (14.8) while leading the team in rebounds, steals and assists.
“Offensively you see it a lot. You see him score from the perimeter, you see him score at the basket, you see him post up, you see him be a point guard, you see him be a four man,” Henderson said. “So you see that and you see him pass and so you see that in a stat sheet and you see that during the game, because a lot of people like offense and I respect that, so do I. Defensively, he’ll guard anybody on the floor.”
Scheierman isn’t the only Jackrabbit to take a big step forward this season. Junior forward, Luke Appel, is scoring nearly nine points per game, while collecting the second most blocks and third most assists.
“Similar to Baylor, a lot of credit goes to him. We talked about the improvements that he needed to make and he took them to heart and he has really improved in those areas,” Henderson said. I think he’s done a terrific job with his body and changing his body. He moves a lot better and I think defensively, he’s able to guard on the perimeter a bit better and guards the ball screen a little bit better.”
A focal point for the Jackrabbits this season was improving their team defense. This continues to be a work in progress, though SDSU believes they’re headed in the right direction.
“I think we’ve made improvements, but there’s always room for improvements. We want to be playing our best defense towards the end, towards Summit League tournament, so we’ve just got to keep improving,” SDSU sophomore Charlie Easley said. “Just focus every night on our matchups and if we do that, we’ll be in a good spot.”
“Just keeping that edge for forty minutes. It doesn’t matter what the score is, we’ve got to make sure we’re engaged, we’ve got to make sure we’re focused and making sure that we’re playing connected championship level defense for forty (minutes),” Henderson said.
A 6-0 start to Summit League play is a new feat for SDSU, but that doesn’t change their focus of playing their best basketball in March.
“Obviously we know with that start, it’s all about us. I think that’s why SDSU has been so successful in the recent past,” SDSU junior Alex Arians said. “We make sure each and every day that we make it about us and what we can continue to get better on. I think if we continue to do that moving forward, we’ll be in a good spot and right where we want to be at the end of the year.”
“In all reality, it is very, very early. We’ve had some good wins, there’s no doubt about that and all of them have been good wins, but we can’t look at the past,” Henderson said. “We’ve got to continue to look forward and continue to take the approach that, we’re going to get better every single day.”
The Jackrabbits will travel to St. Paul, Minnesota on Thursday, January 20 to play Summit League newcomer, St. Thomas. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.