The 50th season of South Dakota State women's basketball is here and the Jackrabbits are in a familiar spot. Coach Aaron Johnston's team is the #1 pick in the Summit League, after capturing the conference tournament title for the sixth time in seven years last season.

As the Jacks open with an exhibition game against St. Cloud State Thursday night, they are trying to fill the gap left by two talented players, Megan Waytashek and Mariah Clarin, who combined to average 26 points and 11 rebounds a game between them last season. Those 26 points per game accounted for more than a third of the SDSU offense a year ago.

South Dakota State returns a trio of starters - Macy Miller, Kerri Young, and Ellie Thompson. Miller and Young are on the Preseason All-Summit League Women’s Basketball First Team while Thompson earned second-team honors.

The Jackrabbits will also welcome back sixth-year senior Gabby Boever at point guard.  Boever missed last season with an injury. Two years ago, the Worthington, Minnesota native led SDSU in assists and points.

Senior Chloe Cornemann, junior Clarissa Ober, and sophomore Alexis Alexander will have chances to contribute this season, as will transfer Ena Viso, a native of Denmark, who averaged eight points a game in junior college last year.

South Dakota State's non-conference schedule is tough, with games against six teams who qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament (Notre Dame, Arkansas, DePaul, Green Bay, Maryland, and Pitt) and four who played in the WNIT (Creighton, Marist, Northern Colorado, and Northern Iowa).

Thursday's exhibition with St. Cloud State starts at 6:00 PM at Frost Arena in Brookings. The Jackrabbits open the regular season November 13 against Marist.

Here is my interview with SDSU head coach Aaron Johnston about the upcoming season: