Jacks have high hopes for the 2016-2017 season


The South Dakota State women’s basketball team is picked to win the Summit League title for the fifth-straight season. The last two seasons the team has won the Summit League Tournament, but has failed to win the regular season title.

That’s one aspect Head Coach Aaron Johnston, who is entering his 17th year, hopes is different from last year.

“The last two years we have not won the regular season conference title, that’s a goal of ours to be regular season champs,” Johnston said. “I think the team will be highly motivated to win that this year.”

The Jacks went to the NCAA Tournament last year where they defeated the University of Miami 74-71 in the first round before falling to Stanford University 66-65.

The Jacks have a tough non-conference schedule this year once again as they play at University of Louisville, Oklahoma University, Wichita State University and University of Northern Iowa. Louisville and Oklahoma both made the NCAA Tournament last year and were ranked in the top 25 at the end of the season.

“I think when you play top teams like that it helps our players realize there is really no difference,” Johnston said. “Our players don’t have to take a backseat to other teams or players, it helps build the confidence of our players when we play against the big-named schools or the players you hear about on TV.”

The Jacks were the first team in Summit League history to have their starting lineup for the upcoming season all earned preseason all-league honors.

“It’s a neat accomplishment to have that awarded to us, they definitely deserve those awards. They will certainly be some of the five best players in the league,” Johnston said. “But our conference graduated away a lot of really good players last year. There will be a lot of new faces and a lot of players deserving of postseason awards because people haven’t seen them perform yet.”

Junior point guard Macy Miller was named the Summit League Preseason Player of the Year, according to a poll conducted by the league’s coaches, sports information directors and select media. This would be the first time in SDSU women’s basketball history that they will have the Preseason Player of the Year.

“Macy’s the kind of player that makes everyone around her better. When you have a player like that it takes a lot of pressure off the team. It allows everyone to play their own game as well,” Johnston said. “She’s gotten a lot better at finding the open player for the shot or rebounding for the team, she has worked hard in the offense to bring new things to her game.” 

The Jackrabbits return 10 players from last year’s team, among those returning is sophomore Madison Guebert, who was the Summit League Freshman of the Year last season and was also named to All-Summit League Newcomer Team. She was the first SDSU player to win Freshman of the Year.

“Honestly no one can predict how the season’s going to go, but I have been working pretty hard on my threes and other aspects of my game so I hope I can lead the Summit again in threes,” Guebert said. “If my teammates didn’t screen and pass the ball as well as they do, none of this would be possible for me.” 

Guebert set the Jacks freshman record for three pointers with 83, ranked third in three-point field goal percentage and ranked third in three-pointers. She also led the Summit League in three-pointers made last year with 44. She was named to The Summit League Preseason Second Team.

“Any given night anyone could step up and lead the team, I’m glad I was able to do it a couple times last year,” Guebert said. “That’s what I think is the key to this year’s team, if teams start to play me tight I know I can pass it to anyone on my team and trust they will make the play.” 

Junior center Clarissa Ober is another one of the players back for the Jacks this year. Ober is one of three seniors on this year’s team.

“We all have high expectations for this year. We have such high team chemistry and we believe we can go even farther than we did last year,” Ober said. “Only losing to Stanford by one-point last year was tough, but we know we can go even farther this year. We’ve just got to believe in ourselves and make it come true.”

Ober was the 2016 Summit League Defensive Player of the Year and ranks third in career blocks with 127 and blocks per game with 1.27.

“Playing these big name teams like Louisville and Oklahoma this year will help us get prepared for conference play,” Ober said. “We get to play against teams with different styles and sometimes their wing players are three to four inches taller than ours. That will help us so we aren’t afraid to play against bigger wings and bigger guards in conference play.”

The Jackrabbits open their season this Thursday with an exhibition against University of Minnesota Crookston in Frost Arena at 7 p.m. The Jacks open up their regular season play against the University of Montana in the Hawkeye Challenge Nov. 19 in Iowa City, Iowa.