Recruits ignite SDSU with new talent

John Andrews

John Andrews

The South Dakota State University athletic programs have been busy recruiting top high school talent to help carry on the Jackrabbits’ winning traditions.


The official signing date for football is Feb. 6, but head coach John Stiegelmeier has already gotten verbal commitments from eight players.

The Jacks will be getting three linebackers in Zack Maxwell (6’1″ 190 lbs. from Watertown, S.D.), Jesse Rounds (6’0″ 215 lbs. from Brookings, S.D.), and Willie Jones (6’1″ 240 lbs. from Yankton, S.D.). On the defensive line, the Jacks get Blake Seeds, a 6’3″ 285 lb. transfer from Black Hills State University and Jared Schwader (6’3″ 228 lbs. from Yankton, S.D.). Gabe Guzman, a 6’3″ 290 lb. offensive lineman, will transfer from Fullerton (Calif.) Community College.

Also verbally committing were Zack Campbell, a 6’5″ 235 lb. tight end from Platte, S.D., and Dusty Snyders, a 5’10” 150 lb. wide receiver from West Lyon (Iowa) High School.

“There are five South Dakotans there,” said Steigelmeier. “We feel that we have the cream of the crop in the state of South Dakota”

Women’s Basketball

Two players have officially signed with the women’s basketball program. Heather Sieler, a 5’8″ point guard from Huron, S.D., signed with the team in November 2001.

“She’s been a starter on that Huron team for a few years,” said head coach Aaron Johnston. “She gives us a lot of perimeter quickness. She shoots the ball well from the three-point line and she is a great, great competitor.”

The other new Jackrabbit will be Christina Gilbert, a 6’2″ post player from Stillwater, Minn. Gilbert already has SDSU ties. Her high school coach is Deb Van Klei, a former women’s basketball stand-out at State.

“Christina is a tremendous, tremendous athletic post player,” said Johnston. “I would say from her physical abilities there won’t be many post players like her in the conference.”

Men’s Basketball

The men’s basketball program has signed one player. Andy Kleinjan, a 6’2″ 155 lb. two-guard, signed with the team in November 2001. Kleinjan, from Sioux Valley High School in Volga, S.D., will redshirt his freshman year, said head coach Scott Nagy.


The Jackrabbit softball team has bolstered their pitching staff with the signing of the top prep pitchers from Nebraska and Iowa.

Kim Hightower, from Elkhorn (NE) High School, signed on with the Jacks in November 2001. The right-hander has a career 78-17 record. In her senior year, she went 23-5 with a 0.49 ERA.

Right-hander Jackie Sorenson also signed last November. Sorenson, from Clear Creek-Amana (IA) High School, has a 116-16 career record along with an 0.44 ERA going into her senior year.

“Their both All-Staters,” said first-year head coach Shane Bouman. “Both of them come very successful programs, and it’s only going to help us as far as building our program and moving into the future.”


The Division II national runners-up added to their team last November by signing three all-state players from Minnesota.

Rhonda Bitker is a 6’1″ middle hitter from Tracy-Milroy-Balaton (MN) High School. Bitker helped give her team the Class 2A state championship in November by tallying 21 kills and 38 attacks in the title match.

Joan Ebnet, a 5’9″ outside hitter from Brainerd (MN) High School, carries on the Ebnet family tradition in volleyball at SDSU. Her sister Rose played from 1997-2000 and sister Annie is currently on the team. Ebnet led her team last year in kills with 48, service aces with 54 and digs with 353.

Katie Hawkins is a 5″11″ outside hitter from Meadow Creek Christian High School in Andover, MN. A starter for five years, Hawkins holds school records in five categories.

“The main thing that they’re going to be able to give us is just more depth and we