Men’s basketball ready for new era under Otzelberger


For the first time in 20 years, someone other than Scott Nagy will be standing on the sidelines for the South Dakota State men’s basketball team. 

That someone else will be T.J. Otzelberger.

Otzelberger’s previous position was at Iowa State, where he was an assistant coach for six seasons from 2006-12 before going to the University of Washington from 2013-15. He then returned to Iowa State last season before being hired as the head coach at SDSU. This is his first ever head-coaching job.

A coach change also comes with a change in the style of play.

“We’re going to try to be up tempo, shoot a lot of threes early in the shot clock,” Otzelberger said. “But, we also know we’re going to have to score the ball in our half-court offense when teams get back on defense.”

Sophomore power forward Mike Daum said there really isn’t too much of a difference between the two systems.

“I think we play a lot faster with Coach T.J., he wants the ball popping and moving around more than in the old system,” Daum said.

Daum is coming off of a season where he led the team in scoring, averaging 15.2 points a game. He is the Preseason Summit League Player of the Year after being named Summit League Newcomer of the Year and was named to the First Team All-Summit League last season.

Daum only started two games last season and averaged 20 minutes a game, but Otzelberger said he will be in the starting lineup this season. Daum is ready for the task.

“I’m going into the season with the exact same mindset I had last year,” Daum said. “ I just want to help this team win any way I can, whether it’s coming off the bench or starting.”

The Jackrabbits lost four players to graduation last season, including both starting guards Deondre Parks and George Marshall. They will now start redshirt freshman Cole Gentry and sophomore Tevin King. Otzelberger said this is a concern for his team.

“We’re trying to piece that together and still working through it,” Otzelberger said. “That will be the area we need people to step up at and get better at.”

SDSU has five players on their team who played last season. One of them is junior forward Reed Tellinghuisen, who has averaged 8.8 points a game in his career. He has also caught the eye of his new head coach.

“He’s a really good two-way player,” Otzelberger said. “Offensively, he gives us a versatile forward that can play forward or guard. Defensively, he gives us a guy who can guard many positions.”

There are two seniors on the team and both of them are transfers. This makes Otzelberger rely on the guys returning to be leaders. Daum and Tellinghuisen knew this from the get go.

“Reed Tellinghuisen and I were brought into that role, coming in from last year,” Daum said. “It’s been great because everyone on this team respects each other, so we can hold each other accountable and can take criticism.”

One of the two senior transfers is A.J. Hess. He came from Southern Utah University as a graduate transfer after missing the 2015-16 season with a leg injury. He led SUU in scoring in the 2014-15 season averaging 11.7 points a game and led the team in free throw percentage with 84.1 percent.


“He’s a phenomenal shooter,” Otzelberger said. “He has good size for the guard position, he’s a good passer and we think he can be a really good offensive threat for us.”

The Jacks have one of their toughest non-conference schedules since going to Division I in 2008, playing California, Northern Iowa and Wichita State all on the road. All three of these teams made the NCAA Tournament last season, just like SDSU. The most difficult of those opponents is California, who received votes in the AP Top 25.

“They (California) have a lot of good guys returning, including Ivan Rabb, who is in contention for player of the year,” Tellinghuisen said.

Rabb, a sophomore power forward who averaged 8.8 points a game last season, will be tough matchup for Mike Daum, but he’s ready for the task.

“It’s going to be tough, but we’re getting ready for it,” Daum said. “If we control what we can control and go into it with that mindset we won’t have to worry about it.”

SDSU has a 30-home-game winning streak at Frost Arena, which is the third highest in all of Division I. They have gone 63-3 at home in the last five seasons and have had back-to-back undefeated seasons at home.

“The fans bring a whole different perspective to the game and a different atmosphere,” Daum said. “They’ll get after you and are always engaged in the game, whether you are up 20 or down 20.”

The Jacks were second in the Summit League preseason media poll, behind Fort Wayne.

 “The Summit League just gets better each and every year,” Tellinghuisen said. “Fort Wayne and NDSU should be good as well, so it starts with those two teams, but every team has some depth and should be pretty good this year.”

The Jacks start the season Thursday when they the take on South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in an exhibition game. Tip-off is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. at Frost Arena.