Alex Arians finds his spot in starting lineup

Victoria Berndt, Sports Reporter

After being compared to professional basketball player, Manu Ginóbili by head coach T.J. Otzelberger, Alex Arians’ future at South Dakota State looks bright.

“Alex is a tremendous young man. He has an extremely high basketball IQ and feel for the game,” Otzelberger said.

Arians comes from a family of basketball players. Both his parents played college basketball and older brother currently plays. Despite having a family legacy, he didn’t always want to be a basketball player.

“I remember after one of the tournaments in the middle of the season I told my parents I wanted to quit basketball,” Arians said. “I wasn’t that good back then, but my parents wouldn’t let me quit. I didn’t really have an option to not play basketball, but it definitely paid off.”

Arians’ grandfather taught him how to shoot a basketball, keep his elbow in on the shot and get his form down correctly.

“My grandpa would always come to my games in high school and sit up at the top [of the bleachers] and have the stat sheet,” Arians said. “He would always be the one to come up to me first after the games and critique me and make sure what I do on the court was right.”

Arians went to Edgewood High School in Madison, Wisconsin, where he lettered three consecutive years in basketball.

In high school, Arians received comments about how he would never be able to play college basketball.

That all changed the summer he grew about 5 inches.

Arians went on to earn first-team Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Division II honors, fourth-team All-State by the Associated Press, Badger South Conference Player of the Year along with being a first-team pick, ESPN All-Area Team honoree.

“Some of the discouragements came from people that I never thought would discourage me,” Arians said.

Otzelberger now describes Arians as an “invaluable, tremendous, elite and versatile player.”

“That redshirt year certainly worked for Mike Daum, so we continue to utilize the redshirt when we have guys like Alex where we believe in their long-term potential,” Otzelberger said.

At first, Arians was hesitant to being redshirted, he felt like he wasn’t going to be a part of the team.

“It would’ve been harder if it was just me being redshirted but since I had three other guys with me it made the process easier,” Arians said. “It was the best for me.”

In his redshirt year, Arians added weight to make himself a bigger presence on the court.

“I never would have thought that as a redshirt freshman we would essentially be playing him 35 minutes a game in league play and at the 4-spot,” Otzelberger said.

Arians has started 17  of the 26 games for the Jackrabbits, and contributes to a starting lineup that puts four veterans on the court. He has made the most of his playing time and is averaging 5.9 points per game, 4.7 rebounds and has 23 steals in 26 games.

“I can’t say enough great things about Alex,” Daum said. “It just goes to show just how hard he has worked to get that last spot on the team. He has been huge for our team.”

It’s not just on the court where Arians makes a difference.

“No matter what I can do whether it is cheering or playing or whatever it is, helping my team win,” Arians said.

Although Arians thought he would never play college basketball, he is proving he was meant to play.

“The more experience he gets the better he gets,”  Otzelberger said. “He is going to be a heck of a player in this league, in this year and three more to come.”

It’s not just Otzelberger who sees his potential.

“He’s a baller,” Daum said.