BY JEREMY HOECK
VERMILLION – The last time Bridget Arens and Allison Arens played on the basketball court together, it was in a 2013 Nebraska state high school championship game in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The next time the sisters from Crofton, Nebraska, will play together?
On Friday night for the University of South Dakota against the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
That’s quite a difference.
Bridget, now a junior for the Coyotes, has thrived in her two seasons of Division I hoops in Vermillion. In a reserve role, she has averaged 5.2 points and 3.6 points for USD, which has reached the NCAA Tournament and the WNIT during her career.
Now, for the first time since that 2012-13 season at Crofton, she’ll be joined by her sister, Allison, a highly-touted guard – she led Crofton to two more state titles after Bridget graduated.
As USD gets ready to head west for the season opener in Utah, Bridget answered a couple questions from the Press & Dakotan during Monday’s media day session in Vermillion.
How excited are you to play with your sister again?
It’s kind of a dream come true, it’s an awesome experience. It’s that sister bond you can’t really replace. I’m very fortunate because there aren’t too many sisters that get that opportunity.
You guys are really close, aren’t you?
Yeah, we’re very close. She’s like my best friend. All of us, from my oldest two brothers to my younger two sisters, we’re all close. Yesterday (Sunday), I took about seven or eight phone calls from my siblings, just calling to see how things are going. They say they miss me. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know (laughs)
When you got here, in the back of your mind were you thinking, ‘It’d be nice if Allison came here’?
Actually, that’s funny. When I was trying to make my college decision, Allison came with on a lot of the trips. I would ask her, ‘Allison, is that somewhere you’d play?’ And she’d say yes or no, and that narrowed my decision. Even when we were younger, in high school, playing together, it was definitely a sister communication. Obviously being home close to home; the home support is great, and coach Williams, those were all factors. She’s probably one of the most influential people I’ve ever met. I have one hundred percent respect for her.
Then, was it the same thing when Allison was deciding, that you helped her?
I tried to stay out of it a little bit more. I didn’t want to force her into something she didn’t want to do. I did explain to her a lot of the things I went through, and said, ‘Allison, coach Williams is a great person, the assistants are great people, and when it comes to family, family comes first. If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s what you’re getting here.’ Luckily enough she took my advice.
She was at that level where she could have gone to a number of Division I schools.
She had some decisions to make, but the bottom line was, she’s a family person. We couldn’t really leave our two little sisters in the dust; they mean a lot to us. The ability to be able to go home and spend time with family was part of the decision. I think she just loved Vermillion, the community aspect, the support. We’re lucky that way, that we all get that.
Are you expecting her to see some time this year?
You know, I think she’s learning a lot and growing a lot. She’ll get her time. Obviously it’s a little bit different coming from Crofton where she was used to having to play a lot, but she’s doing some good things so far. I like that I can be on the sidelines and can say, ‘OK, don’t do that.’ We’re working together that way. I think she’ll be OK.
What do you think of the team you have? It seems like it’s one of the deeper teams, at least since you’ve been here.
We were actually just talking about that in the locker room the other day, saying this is the deepest we’ve ever been. It’s kind of weird, because you get subbed out and you’re maybe not quite tired yet. But we have fresh legs all the time. We have five awesome seniors that will basically lead us to great things, I think. The depth of the team is exciting, because coach can do a lot of different things with us, and we’re all a threat.
And I would think a lot of teams say they have depth, but literally for this team, isn’t it like you have a second five that can come in?
That’s exactly how it is. I’m sure coach looks to the bench and thinks, ‘OK, which five should I put in?’ We have so many different combinations, and that was fun during our scrimmages to see who works well with each other.