Lofty expectations set for Jacks

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With the first game of the 2017-18 season on Thursday, head coach T.J Otzelberger has yet to decide the starting lineup for the South Dakota State men’s basketball team.

“We’ve tried a lot of different lineups up to this point,” Otzelberger said. “Everything is still in play, up until we play South Dakota Mines on Thursday.”

The game against South Dakota School of Mines and Technolgy is an exhibition game and Otzelberger said that the starting lineup could be completely different in their first regular season game against UC Irvine Nov. 10.

The Jacks return seven of their top eight scorers from last year, but also have seven new faces on the roster with five freshmen and two junior college transfers.

Both Otzelberger and senior forward Reed Tellinghuisen said that out of new guys, junior point guard Brandon Key has impressed them the most.

“He’ll probably be our starting point guard this year. He’s done a great job of pushing the tempo of the game,” Tellinghuisen said.

Key played his first two seasons at Southwest Tennessee Community College. He averaged 12.2 points and 7.3 assists last.

“He’s given us someone who is a dynamic playmaker. He’s really good in the open floor and has the ability to get guys shots. His speed in transition has been a factor for us,” Otzelberger said.

One of the returners is redshirt junior power forward Mike Daum, who is coming off of the best season in Jackrabbit history. Daum was second in the country in scoring, averaging 25.3 points per game. He won the 2017 Summit League Player of the Year Award and was named an NCAA All-American Honorable Mention.

Daum has received a lot of national media attention, but junior guard Tevin King said Daum hasn’t let that get to his head

“He’s the same Mike that I’ve known since coming into my freshman year,” King said. “He’s humble and goes out and works hard each and every day.

Tellinghuisen was the only other player to average more than 10 points per game last season with 11.7, and they lost their third and fourth top-scorers in A.J. Hess and Michael Orris to graduation.

Also returning is junior forward Chris Howell, who averaged 7.7 points per game; senior forward Skyler Flatten, who averaged 5.2 points per game; and senior center Ian Theisen, who averaged five points per game last season.

The Jacks were picked as the preseason favorites to win the Summit League and Tellinghuisen said the team expects to be crowned champions at the end of the season.

“We need to get better everyday. Go to practice and work hard, do the little things right and if we do that, everything will fall into place,” he said.

Before the Summit League portion of the schedule begins, the Jacks will face a tough non-conference schedule. SDSU will play at Kansas and Wichita State. Even though the official preseason Top 25 polls have not been released, they were ranked No. 4 and No. 5 respectively in the ESPN.com preseason power rankings.

“We wanted to have a schedule that prepared us for the Summit League and the Summit League Tournament,” Otzelberger said. “We wanted to really challenge our guys and we have a lot of confidence in our team — so, we wanted to put ourselves in a position to play some of the best teams in the country.”

SDSU is trying to make the NCAA Tournament in three-straight seasons for the first time in program history. They fell to Gonzaga 66-46 in the first round of last year’s tournament.

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