Basketball members are role models for all

Ariy-El Boynton

Ariy-El Boynton

The Jackrabbit women’s basketball team certainly has had success in the last two years on the court. With back-to-back WNIT berths to their credit, the Jacks have also been picked to finish first this year in the Summit League pre-season poll.

What may be less known are the women’s team achievements off the court.

For the past three years, the Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Association has ranked SDSU as the No.1 team for GPA in the nation. The Jacks beat all D-I, D-II, D-III, Junior College/Coomunity College and NAIA teams in the poll with a cumulative GPA of 3.669.

The three-time national champion team is so serious about its academic title that one of the team’s goals is to get a 3.7 GPA. Another goal is to go to the NCAA basketball tournament.

“It’s been a pretty cool experience, because when you came to a university for athletics, people assume, that’s all you do,” said Jacks senior Ashlea Muckenhirn. “We’ve set some high, some really high exceptions, in the last couple of years with our academic success. Just knowing we have put in the time, and we have worked really hard to make sure we assure that we meet those goals. It’s fun to be able to say that we were number one in the nation back-to-back-to-back.”

The team has also been an asset to the Brookings community.

On Sept. 27, 11 Jackrabbit players took a day out of their busy schedules to remodel a house as part of a Habitat for Humanity project.

The opportunity to help out in the community was not the last for the players.

“My favorite part about the house that we painted was seeing the family come to the house … ,” said senior forward Jennifer Warkenthien. “That was an awesome feeling for the whole team.”

Head coach Aaron Johnston was proud of his team for helping out a family, especially in a time when things are tough for many families.

“Helping out in the community makes Brookings more like a home,” said Muckenhirn who hails from Willow Lake, Wis.

The players have also tutored local kids and gone to local girls’ practices in Brookings.

Maddy Reed, a then 10-year-old who spoke with The Collegian last year, appreciated that the Jackrabbits came to her practice.

“They look like WNBA stars to me because you can look up to them, and (we) are like, ‘Someday, I wanna be like you,'” she said.

“It’s really fun to the girls (that they) are making a difference in a youngster’s life,” said Johnston.

With so much success on and off the court, their bond is as strong as any team that wears the yellow and blue. Warkenthien, who lives with two teammates, says its natural to be such a tight-knit group.

“Our road trips are where we created all our memories,” she said. “Spending time with each other is really fun. Being around these girls makes you such a better person and player.”

With much success on the field, the players are very grounded and are just like any student at SDSU.

One of the ways in which the team keeps a level head is humor.

For example, Johnston told a room full of Jackrabbit coaches and players and media that Muckenhirn picked SDSU as her school of choice at the Perkins restaurant on a Sunday morning. The player’s mother was in the bathroom, said Johnston. The crowd laughed about the story.

The team also realizes what it takes to be successful.

“They are extremely unselfish; they show a lot of selflessness in the things we asked them to do,” said Johnston. “When people are ready to give and willing to be a part of something, it’s easy to put all the pieces together.”