For those of you who didn’t make it to Yankton’s Quarterback Club this past Wednesday, you missed a very pumped South Dakota State women’s basketball coach Aaron Johnston talking about the 2008-09 Jackrabbits.
He has plenty to be excited about.
The Jacks have made the Women’s NIT each of the past two years, and would have likely made the NCAA Tournament last year had they been eligible. Now they are eligible, having completed the NCAA-imposed purgatory that the University of South Dakota has just started, and the Jacks are the preseason favorites in the Summit League, which will hold its conference basketball tournaments in Sioux Falls the next two seasons.
SDSU has four seniors and three juniors, including Yankton’s own Ketty Cornemann. The seven upperclassmen is the greatest percentage of veterans the Jacks have had during the nine-year tenure of “A.J.” (Ketty, by the way, is a team captain and president of SDSU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.)
The Jacks have also made an impression off the court, ranking at the top of the collegiate rankings — all divisions — in team grade point average.
The Jacks have another solid recruiting class coming in and, though Johnston could not give names because of NCAA regulations, four of the five early signees are South Dakotans.
Besides all the excitement on the court, there is plenty off the court as well.
With SDSU building a new campus rec facility — with a “footprint” bigger than Frost Arena, Johnston noted — the offices and facilities for basketball and other sports has nearly doubled. The women’s team now has its own locker room, classroom and lounge.
It’s not to say the Jacks won’t be tested.
After an opener at Missouri (10-21 in 2007-08) Nov. 14, Wisconsin (16-14), Utah (27-5) and Oregon (14-17) come to Frost Arena in the span of one week. The following week, the Jacks play Maryland (33-4) in Cancun, Mexico, on the day before Thanksgiving, then play Illinois (20-15) and Montana (25-7) after that.
The Jacks make a return trip to Minnesota (20-12) Dec. 9, the site of one of many exciting victories a year ago.
It should be fun to watch SDSU make some waves. It will be even more fun in a few years, when the Jacks and Coyotes finally play each other again.