BY JEREMY HOECK
The University of South Dakota men’s basketball program won a major recruiting battle in landing the commitment of point guard Triston Simpson.
Simpson, a 6-foot senior at Lincoln (Nebraska) North Star High School, announced Sunday evening that he has committed to USD – choosing the Coyotes over offers from three other Summit League schools.
“I felt comfortable up there,” Simpson said shortly after his announcement. “The coaches believe in me, and I believe in the coaches.”
In the end, that was the overriding factor for the services of Simpson.
“Really, the most important thing in recruiting was the coaching staff and the players,” he said. “I really got to know the coaching staff, got to hang out with the guys, and I really liked the coaching staff.”
Simpson, who made an official visit to USD last weekend and was on-hand for the football game against Drake, averaged 17.9 points, 4.7 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals per game as a junior last season at North Star.
It was that production, combined later with his AAU play over the summer with the OSA Crusaders that made Simpson a popular target for D-I schools. Simpson said he had offers from South Dakota State, North Dakota State and Omaha within the Summit League.
More than USD’s upcoming 6,000-seat basketball arena (which will open during his freshman season), Simpson said he was impressed by USD’s Business school – he wants to pursue a business degree.
And yes, the arena was a factor.
“The new arena is going to be phenomenal,” he said. “But really, the people, everyone up there, are genuine. It’s really a nice, small college town.”
But again, Simpson went back to the relationship he developed with head coach Craig Smith and the rest of the USD coaching staff.
“I think he’s really going to turn this program around,” Simpson said of Smith. “The last few years haven’t been the greatest; they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament, but I think he’ll help get them there.”
Simpson pointed to last season – Smith’s first at USD – as proof that the Coyotes might just be trending upward.
USD was picked to finish eighth out of nine teams in the Summit League last season, but won nine conference games and won a game in the post-season tournament for the first time. The Coyotes eventually lost to South Dakota State in the semifinals.
“I think that shows how good of a coach he is,” Simpson said.
As for how good of a player he is, Simpson referred to himself as a “true point guard.”
“I can score if I need to, and I’m a good passer with good vision,” he said. “And I can only get better.”
How can the USD staff help him get better?
During his visit to Vermillion, Simpson watched USD assistant coach Austin Hansen working with the Coyote guards, and to Simpson, some of those techniques reminded him of what he has been doing with a personal trainer back home.
“I saw some of the same things,” Simpson said.
As for making his college decision, yes, it was certainly a relief, Simpson joked.
“It was a long process, and I’m relieved to have it over,” he said. “But I know I picked the right school.”