BROOKINGS, S.D. (KELO) — The South Dakota State Men’s Basketball team finished up its non-conference schedule with 3 straight wins to improve to 9-6 on the year. Despite some uncertainty heading into the year, the Jacks enter Summit League play with plenty of confidence.
Eric Henderson knew his first season as South Dakota State’s Head Coach would have its challenges. He had to replace the team’s four leading scorers, including the program’s and conference’s all-time leading scorer, Mike Daum.
“Not a lot of people knew what to expect, but you know we took the mantra, we’re just going to get better everyday. We’re going to play our tails off, and we’re going to play unselfish,” Henderson said.
Unselfish has been a defining characteristic for this year’s Jackrabbit team. While they had three players score in double figures a year ago, the Jacks only had 5 players averaging more than 6 points per game. This year, they have 8.
“As an opponent you can’t just factor in on one aspect of our game that you think you need to take away,” Henderson said.
“We got a lot of play makers, both inside and outside, and we share the ball really well. On any given night you don’t really know who’s going to come out and score the most points,” Matt Dentlinger said.
They’ve also improved their defensive effort, as they’re allowing 4.6 less points per game compared to last year. But the Jacks feel they can be even better.
“We need to get better at just guarding the basketball. We have lapses where we’re getting beat down hill, we’re a little bit spread out. So we need to just continue to get better at playing together as a unit defensively, where we’re moving all at the same time,” Henderson said.
With all the turnover from a year ago, the Jacks were picked 5th in the preseason poll. Regardless of not being the conference favorites, the defending Summit League regular season champs know they still have a target on their back.
“We’ve had a great amount of success, so people are going to becoming prepared for us, and ready to kick our tails, and we need to be ready for that challenge every single night,” Henderson said.
SDSU opens Summit League play on Sunday when they visit Omaha with tip-off set for 4:30.