T.J. Otzelberger chosen to lead Jackrabbits next season


Nate Giese Assistant Sports Editor

South Dakota State men’s basketball has seen great success over the past five years. Since the start of the 2011-12 season, the Jackrabbits have gone 63-3 at home in Frost Arena, won three regular season Summit League championships, won three Summit League tournament championships and participated in three NCAA Tournaments.

The first two opponents  the Jacks played in their  NCAA appearances (Baylor and Michigan) featured a combined 11 NBA draft picks with several more expected from the third opponent, Maryland. To compare, the Jacks featured just one NBA draft pick from those three NCAA teams. The lone player also happens to be the most decorated player in SDSU history, Nate Wolters.

After all that success, it was only a matter of time before changes were going to come. This happened in the form of a coaching change. Out was Scott Nagy, SDSU men’s head basketball coach for 21 years. Nagy left to become the head coach at Wright State University.

To replace him, athletic director Justin Sell tapped T.J. Otzelberger as the next Jackrabbit head coach. At 38 years old, Otzelberger had spent the previous 10 seasons as an assistant at two high-profile college basketball programs at Iowa State University and the University of Washington.

Now, Otzelberger becomes the 21st head coach in program history and takes over a team looking to replace the majority of its backcourt. Despite this, SDSU returns two starters and at least two of the top players off the bench, led by sophomore Mike Daum.

In his first year of action, Daum captured Summit League Freshman of the Year, Sixth Man of the Year and all-conference first team honors. With his long arms, ability to handle the ball and shoot the three, Otzelberger already had high praise for Daum.

“One thing I saw with Daum is how much better he got from start to finish,” Otzelberger said. “Credit to the coaching staff and their work in developing him. Credit to him for his work ethic and what he did to get to that point… he’s phenomenal.”

Otzelberger also compared the 6-foot-9 forward to NBA greats such as Kevin Durant and Dirk Nowitzki as well as Georges Niang, a player of similar size and skills Otzelberger coached with at Iowa State the previous four years.

News of Nagy’s departure initially came as a shock to Jackrabbit fans, but Sell and the SDSU athletic department had been preparing for it. With the type of success Nagy has had with the Jacks within the past five years, him finding another job with higher pay felt inevitable.

Still, Otzelberger isn’t the only new coach for the Jackrabbit men for the 2016-17 season. Nagy also took three other coaches with him to Wright State. One coach did stay in SDSU, though, as Rob Klinkefus remained with the Jackrabbits.

A new era has begun for SDSU basketball. With a new coach, plenty of new players on the way, potentially a new style of offense and the increase in talent throughout the Summit League, intrigue in Jackrabbit basketball has never been higher.