Youthful promise fuels season

Mike Schaefer

Mike Schaefer

Freshmen look to play a key role in South Dakota State’s 2006 men’s basketball season. More than half of the roster entered the season with no NCAA experience, other than practice and the past two exhibition games. Coach Scott Nagy knows better than anyone that great results are expected.

“I think we are going to see some inconsistent play. My goal is that by Christmas, we know what we are going to get from them. From Christmas on, we should be playing good basketball,” he said.

The injury bug wasted no time in striking the Jacks, as a few players have gone down early. Mike Loney was held out of the first exhibition game, and Blake Yackley went down with a high-ankle sprain and is out for several weeks. Freshman point guard Garrett Callahan also suffered a hand injury and will miss the first few weeks of the season.

In the first exhibition game, a staggering Jacks team held off Southwest Minnesota State on a late three-pointer by Matt Cadwell.

Nagy was pleased with the results.

“Normally, I wouldn’t be pleased playing them close, but SWMS is good, and they’ll win 20 games this year. I think it was great for our kids to be in a close game to understand what a college game is like,” he said.

The season schedule includes a few of last season’s NCAA Tournament qualifiers. The opening game of the season on Nov. 10 is against Kent State, who finished 25-9 and lost to Pittsburgh in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. On Nov. 22, SDSU pays a visit to Wisconsin-Milwaukee, of the Horizon Conference, to take on the Panthers. Last season, the Panthers qualified for the big dance, but fell to Oklahoma on the first day.

The Jacks travel to Iowa on Nov. 24 to take on the Northern Iowa Panthers. Last year, UNI, led by Casey Jacobsen, made the tourney but fell to Georgetown in the first round.

On Nov. 29, Jacks fans will have the chance see an NCAA qualifier live in Frost Arena. The Jacks will take on Utah State, the only team that qualified for the NCAA Tournament that the Jacks get to play at home this season.

SDSU has other action-packed games on the schedule as well. The Jackrabbits travel to the Twin Cities to take on Minnesota for a Dec. 7 match-up. Last season, Cadwell led the game with 16 points, as they fell 80-61.

Idaho comes to town on Nov. 16, in the first home game of the year, as part of a home-and-home series. The Jacks will then travel to Moscow, Idaho, on Dec. 30 to complete the series.

Fans should also anticipate the five games the Jacks play against future Mid-Continent Conference opponents. The Jacks have one game with the University of Missouri-Kansas City and four with fellow conference newcomers North Dakota State University and Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne.

Despite the intriguing storyline these games present, Nagy feels these games are of no more importance than any others.

“We need to get better this year and get better in two years. We know we will be able to compete in the league, so there is no extra pressure,” Nagy said.

Nagy considers the upcoming season a learning process.

“It’s nearly impossible to count on a basketball team of five freshman,” he said.

Nagy is, however, counting on his returning players to be leaders during this rebuilding process.

#1.884018:1264063623.jpg:sdsuvsswms03.jpg:Ryan Hoogeveen, 34, drives around Southwest Minnesota State defender Travis Krenske, 25, during their exhibition game Oct. 31.: