BY JEREMY HOECK
Last week we detailed the offensive system – remember “pace, space and tempo”? – that has become the staple of the Mount Marty College women’s basketball program under head coach Tom Schlimgen?
There’s another area that deserves attention, as well.
The recruitment of in-state players.
If you attend Wednesday night’s GPAC Tournament game, take a close look at the roster in your game program. Here’s what you’ll see: A lot of South Dakota hometowns.
This season, the Lancer women – who are ranked No. 19 in the country – have vaulted back into the national conversation thanks to those in-state girls. And it’s much the same story as we saw in 2007, 2009 and 2011, the previous three times Mount Marty reached the NAIA National Tournament.
The top nine scorers on this season’s squad hail from places like Summit, Tabor, Parkston, Elkton, Lake Andes, Bryant, Sioux Falls, Hartford and Centerville. In fact, of the 18 players on the roster, 15 hail from inside our borders. And those other three aren’t coming from Kansas or Florida or Colorado or somewhere like that; no, they’re from Iowa (two) and Nebraska.
Put another way: Tom Schlimgen, along with his top assistant (and son) Todd, haven’t had to put many miles on their cars to find players for their system.
And they’ve found success with that philosophy.
* Tom Schlimgen’s first team (2008-09) went 24-9 and reached the national tournament with 18 of 21 players coming from South Dakota.
* The 2010-11 squad went 22-10 and again reached the national tournament, that time with 15 of 17 players coming from South Dakota.
* And this season, that ratio is 15 of 18. The Lancers, with a 21-9 record, are likely to qualify for the national tournament, even if, for example, they were to lose Wednesday.
Now, to be fair, there were times in the last handful of years where Mount Marty had a handful of South Dakota players on the roster and struggled – the Lancers went 13-17 just two seasons ago, for example.
The difference this season, as I’ve come to believe, is due mostly to the leadership of those in-state recruits, as well as the offensive style – spacing, three-pointers, driving to the hoop, etc. – that has allowed them to flourish.
Either way, it’s been a fun ride this season. And it’s likely to continue for a couple of weeks.