Putting SDSU basketball on the map one game at a time

Something special is happening for Mike Daum this season. 

Daum, a sophomore forward for the South Dakota State men’s basketball team, is not only getting attention from people in the state of South Dakota, but across the country.

On Feb. 18 he scored 51 points and had 15 rebounds against Fort Wayne. That was the highest amount of points scored in a single game by anyone in NCAA Division I this season. It was also only the second time in the last 20 years that a player had more than 50 points and 15 rebounds in a game.

That performance landed him an interview on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” the next day, which both Daum and head coach T.J. Otzelberger said was great for the program.

“It was crazy,” Daum said. “It’s great exposure for the program and the school. For all the guys to be a part of — it’s just nice to get the SDSU name out there.”

Otzelberger thinks the more national exposure SDSU gets, the better.

“It allows us to kind of spread our wings further on a recruiting front. It allows guys to know that they come here and achieve their goals team-wise and individually,” Otzelberger said. “So, huge credit to Mike and it’s an awesome thing for our program.”

Daum has averaged 27.8 points per game in the Summit League and in his last six games he has averaged 32.1 points per game. No one in the Summit League has been able to stop him, as he is first in the conference in total points, rebounds and made free throws.

Daum finished the regular season averaging 24.9 points, 8.1 rebounds and shot 42 percent from the three-point line, making him the second player to average these numbers in the past 25 years. Otzelberger, who is in his first year at SDSU, said he wasn’t surprised by the season Daum is having after he saw that he averaged 15.2 points in 20.1 minutes per game last season.

“We knew he was talented that way and we’ve tried to put him into a position where he can let his talent take over and he’s got the freedom to use those abilities, and he’s really stepped up,” Otzelberger said.

With only the postseason left, Daum will more than likely average the most points per game in a single season in SDSU history, which is a record currently held by Jason Sempsrott, who averaged 23.9 points per game in 1997. Daum also broke SDSU’s single season total points record Saturday, against Denver, which was held by Chad White after he scored 748 points during the 1992-93 season. Daum now has 773 points and doubted at first that he would put up these numbers.

“It was definitely a big surprise this year. So, it’s just been kind of crazy being a part of that,” Daum said.

Daum is second in Division I in points per game this season, only behind Central Michigan’s Marcus Keene, who is averaging 29.7 points per game.

But Daum can’t take all the credit, he said. His teammates play a big role in helping him on the offensive end.

“My teammates around me do a great job facilitating, and it’s easy for me to play with them. They’re the ones that do all the hard work for me and I just have to shoot the ball,” Daum said.

One of those teammates is junior Reed Tellinghuisen, who is second on the team in scoring and averages 11.5 points per game. Tellinghuisen said it’s unbelievable to see Daum’s hard work in practice correlate with the game.

“We have all our confidence in him. When he shoots the ball, we know it’s going in. So we just let him do his thing,” Tellinghuisen said.

After his 51-point performance against Fort Wayne, Daum won multiple weekly awards, including the Summit League Player of the Week and College Sports Madness Mid-Major Player of the Week. He was also named to the NCAA All-Week team.

With all the praise he’s gotten in the past week, Daum isn’t worried about getting a big ego heading into the Summit League Tournament.

“I feel like that’s actually pretty easy,” Daum said. “I just don’t let it get to me. The coaches and my teammates do a good job of keeping me level-headed, because I know that there’s always someone better and there’s always someone working. So, I just have to keep myself working hard, too.”

SDSU will take on Denver in the first round of the Summit League Tournament, 6 p.m. Sunday at the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls.