South Dakota Men Open Summit League Play With Denver
Transition is a word you hear a lot surrounding the South Dakota men's basketball team this season.
The Coyotes are playing for the first time in a quarter century without head coach Dave Boots, who's abrupt retirement before the season started moved top assistant into th head coaching chair on an interim basis.
USD is also trying to fill the void left by the graduation of last year's leading scorer Juevol Myles, and the addition of a handful of new faces to the roster this season.
While they wait for the dust to settle, things have been a bit inconsistent, as evidenced by the streaky nature of the first 14 games. The Coyotes started with a 3-game losing streak, followed by a 3-game winning streak, then a 6-game skid, and now a 2-game win streak heading into the Summit League opener Saturday afternoon against Denver.
Assistant coach Lloyd Williams told me it's been an adjustment period for everyone in the program:
Two areas of emphasis for this season's team: rebounding and defense. The Coyotes were 5th in the Summit last season on the boards, 6th in points allowed.
Those numbers contributed to a 7th place finish in the league last season, but in the early days of this season, there are signs of improvement:
USD is looking to two proven players to carry a lot of the scoring load this season, senior center Trevor Gruis and junior guard Brandon Bos.
Gruis is on the All-Summit League pre-season second team and so far he's averaging 12 points and 7 rebounds a game, hitting an impressive 58% of his shots.
He made great strides on the defensive end of the floor last season, and this season the coaching staff is looking for a little more production on the boards:
Bos joins Gruis in averaging double digits in scoring this season with 13 points per game. The junior will be one of the keys to the Coyotes success this season as he's asked to do more on both ends of the floor, while putting more of an emphasis on scoring rather than just setting up his teammates:
One player who burst on the scene as a freshman last season was Kasey Casperbauer, who led USD in three point shooting, knocking down 62, while shooting nearly 42% from behind the arc.
He's picked up right where he left off, already with 27 3's and a 44% success rate this season.
Halfway thru his sophomore season, he's already earned the reputation as a fearless competitor:
Often times teams deal with injuries during the season and are forced to shuffle the deck to account for players who are sidelined. This season for the Coyotes it's not the injury bug, it's the flu bug that's working its' way thru the program, taking out players and coaches along the way:
That one game this week is the Summit League opener with conference newcomer Denver.
The Pioneers are a proven program, with back-to-back 22 wins seasons while members of the WAC.
This year's team is deep and experienced and boasts pre-season all-conference first teamer Chris Udofia, and a host of other talented players:
Tipoff is Saturday afternoon at 4:00pm in the DakotaDome in Vermillion.