Fourth title in reach for two greats

Spencer Chase

When they entered Frost Arena for the first time, they never could have imagined it would lead to all this.

That was before all the accolades, broken records, NCAA tournament appearances and the kind of performances that will allow them to live forever in Jackrabbit memory.

Jill Young and Jennie Sunnarborg are now nearing the end of their careers as Jackrabbits, and have the chance to be the first group of graduating seniors named four-time Summit League champions and earn berths in four NCAA tournaments.

Sunnarborg and Young were not supposed to be classmates, but fate stepped in. Young originally committed to Creighton in what was Sunnarborg’s senior year at Osseo High School in Minnesota but eventually decided that SDSU was a better fit. Young’s decision came too late for her to play as a true freshman, and she was forced to sit out one year due to NCAA transfer rules. SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston said the year off really helped Young adjust to college basketball, and the results showed early.

“Jill was kind of a key player right away as a freshman,” Johnston said. “She got a lot of time on that first team. She’s now become a very good defensive player, very good rebounder … She’s really evolved to become a really complete player rather than just a shooter.”

Sunnarborg’s early playing time was hindered by playing behind a talented group of post players that was highlighted by Summit League Player of the Year Jennifer Warkenthien, but Sunnarborg used that as a learning opportunity to help

make her a better player.

“I think she really grew a lot as a freshman playing with a really good post group … and really understanding the dedication and commitment you have to have to be a good player at this level. As Jennie got comfortable with the expectations, comfortable with what her talents are, I think she’s been one of the best post players we’ve ever had,” Johnston said.

As time goes on, Young and Sunnarborg have proven to be highly impactive players for SDSU. Both players joined the 1,000 point club this season and are now among some of the greatest scorers to ever don the yellow and blue.

“I never really crunched my numbers I guess, but you realize when it’s coming up. You start your career with goals and expectations of yourself, so to be a player that made an impact here was one of my goals,” Young said. “To be in the 1,000 point club with so many great players from the past is a real honor.”

As their careers wind down, with literally a ton of points and nearly 100 wins between them, Sunnarborg and Young say they will remember their times off the floor rather than on it from their time in the program.

“I definitely would say the relationships, the friendships that we’ve made throughout our four years. Just the fact that we’re still close and we still can talk to our former teammates,” Sunnarborg said. “A lot of the teammates are each other’s best friends, and it’s just a really close atmosphere.”

After they’ve unlaced their shoes for the last time, as Sunnarborg and Young graduate in the spring, both players plan on getting married. Sunnarborg is considering pursuing her master’s degree in counseling. Young is entertaining the possibility of playing basketball in Germany for a year with her fiancé, former Jackrabbits men’s basketball player Clint Sargent, and will pursue coaching at some point in her future.

Regardless of their future plans, Sunnarborg and Young will go down as two of the best players in team history as well as arguably one of the best graduating classes.

“Jennie and Jill especially, spend a lot of time being compared to those (early) groups, so they’ve had the added burden and pressure of expectations, where those first groups didn’t,” Johnston said. “That’s why, at the end of the day, these two have accomplished as much and maybe a little bit more just because of the expectations they’ve had to deal with.”