David Herbster is now the permanent athletic director at USD. He can have the job as long as they want to have him, or he wants to have them.
His hiring confirms he did his job well enough during the interim period in President Jim Abbott’s opinion to be promoted. The audition isn’t over, of course. It’s just beginning.
His predecessor’s two-and-a-half year tenure at USD was marked by the introduction of the pursuit of a new basketball/volleyball facility. Prior to David Sayler’s getting up in 2010 and telling the world one of his responsibilities would be drumming up support to start building, USD was a little squeamish about even admitting there was a need for such a thing.
When Herbster was named the new guy this week, it changed very little in the way of his responsibilities or that of the athletic department staff. While it’s easy to speculate on the direction of the program after a gaudy personnel change at the top end, in this instance it appears the biggest issue is and will continue to be getting the work done.
Until another person is hired, Herbster is, ironically, still the senior associate athletic director – in addition to being the athletic director. Hiring an additional manager should be a high priority.
“The only thing that was really different today was that I had a lot more emails and phone calls,” the 44-year-old said. “My job really doesn’t change – it’s still two jobs. We’ve been working very hard around here to make sure that we don’t slow down. It’s a little crazy when you think about it but we’re just two weeks away from graduation right now.”
Herbster and Abbott had conversations recently about the future of the program with the president vetting his six-year employee on what needs to happen as USD now continues on as a full-fledged Division I operation.
It’s likely a significant amount of those conversations dealt with fundraising for a new arena and coordinating, maintaining and expanding on present and future relationships with alumni. While the movers and shakers at the school have to deal with the “what” in terms of bringing in money, those interested more casually in the athletic programs at the university are preoccupied with the “when”, as in when do they start spending the money they have on something everyone can see.
“We continue to move forward expecting we’ll have a shovel going in the ground by fall,” Herbster said, summarizing conversations he’s had with Abbott on that topic.
The married father of three has a long background in sports, dating back to his days as a 6-9 basketball player at Chantilly High School in Virginia, then at Virginia Tech. It has been apparent that he is going to be more of a “people” guy with those around him than Sayler was, though I would never classify the former AD as difficult to get along with.
An advantage Herbster should have over his predecessor is in his ability to relate to those deeply involved in their sports, be they coaches or student-athletes. He’s been there, and can talk with the people after victories and defeats knowing to a great degree when it’s like to be in that spot.
His ability to get along with coaches won’t be scale he’s weighed with, of course. The money coming into the program during his time on the job will take that spot.
He sounds like he’s ready to take it all on.
“I’ve always tried to make sure everyone here knows you have to come to work with a sense of urgency,” Herbster said. “With our office space situation, we have to be a family. We share facilities, we share office space. We’ve got a good staff, good coaches, a great campus and a great community – we just have to keep moving forward.”
Herbster talked about walking through the Dome recently and seeing the women’s basketball team playing kickball. Probably not an everyday sight at the Dome, but a cause for some reflection.
“You see something like that and you realize that, in the end, we’re talking about games,” he said. “In our jobs here we have an opportunity to give students a chance to play a game while they’re in college getting a degree. How great is that?”
Today was the late national signing day for basketball and the Coyotes have been busy in pursuit of players over the last few months. The program will likely announce those signings at the end of the week. A while back, I retweeted what looked to be a commitment to USD from Rashawn Thomas, a 6-7 high school player in Oklahoma. Though Thomas was recruited by the Coyotes and visited Vermillion, his tweet “USD!” was not, it turns out, a commitment. He will not be a Coyote.
USD will likely announce the signing of Rico Thompson, a high school point guard from Stillwater, Okla., however, and Tavian Pomlee, a 6-5 junior college transfer from Iowa Western.
Live chat on Thursday at 3 p.m….USD spring game is Saturday at the DakotaDome.
Jim Morris, longtime basketball coach at Iowa Western, has seen quite a few really good basketball players go through his program. Some of them have ended up at USD, including men’s assistant coach Joey James.
Last week, Tavian Pomlee, a 6-5, 206-pound forward, verbally committed to the Coyotes and will sign next week. Pomlee follows Charlie Westbrook, who played two years for the Coyotes before moving on to a career in Europe.
Though they’re roughly the same size, Pomlee, who averaged more than 13 points and nearly six rebounds for Iowa Western, is a different kind of player than Westbrook, says Coach Morris.
“He’s really an athletic guy, really put together really well,” Morris said. “Offensively, he’s primarily a shooter. You’re going to see one or two dribbles, then a power forward move — he’s not a slasher like Charlie was. He’s a straight-up shooter who plays hard and makes a lot of baskets.”
Pomlee, who was getting mid-major consideration coming out of high school in Davenport, Iowa, started slow but finished strong with Iowa Western, which went 32-3 this past season.
“He was first-team all-region, which is pretty hard to do around here because of all the good basketball players,” Morris said. “He’s a good kid — he really came on strong for us his sophomore season.”
The rain and wind did not make for a real productive morning for USD football team during a scrimmage at the USF complex on Saturday, but you were able to pick up on a few things.
Josh Vander Maten will have a No. 7 on his jersey this year, rather than a 14. That’s one thing I picked up on, being the astute football mind that I am. Several other players, most of whom were redshirted last year, have new numbers as well. Not sure if it’s an attempt to sell more programs next season or not.
Several Coyote players look bigger than they did last fall. Keyen Lage, for instance, looked a little undersized last year on the field as a true freshman linebacker. Now he looks like a linebacker. In addition, running backs Trevor Bouma and Jordan Roberts, who came in at around 200 pounds last season as freshmen, are both genuinely large running backs now. They’re in the 215 range and both, I’m expecting, will be getting the ball next fall.
Other stuff I saw…
Chris Wiseman, like Bouma and Roberts, was one of the redshirted players last fall who coaches expect will contribute this coming season. He looked disruptive coming in from the edge. He had a sack while I was watching and another time hustled Vander Maten out of bounds for no gain on a play where he showed good speed.
Offensively, there wasn’t a ton going on. Passing in the wind and rain proved to be difficult, though Vander Maten showed some spark at times both running and passing and backup Kevin Earl showed that he’s a better runner than you might expect.
When I walked up to Joe Glenn after practiced he joked that leaving the Dome for an outdoor practice in Sioux Falls may not have been the smartest thing he’d ever done, but there were quite a few people – given the conditions – who made the trip out there to watch what was going on.
“Our defense looked way ahead of the offense today,” Glenn said. “The ball was really wet early on – it was hard to hold it, pass it, snap it and kick it. But the defense did play really well and made plays – knocked balls down at the line of scrimmage and didn’t give up big plays. I thought they played with a lot of spirit. The offense started a little slow but Vander Maten had a few plays there once we got going and made some good reads on some of the new things we’re implementing.”
The Twitter accounts of a pair of highly regarded Oklahoma high school basketball players reveal that the Coyotes will be making at least two additions to next year’s roster on the late signing date.
Rico Thompson is a 6-2 or 6-3 point guard from Stillwater, Okla., who I’d expect will get in there right away next season…..you can read about him here and here and here and watch him play here.
Rashawn Thomas is a 6-7 forward who played at Southeast High School in Oklahoma City. You can read about him here and can watch him play here.
Both are discussed here in a ranking of Oklahoma high school players put together last fall. Late signing day is April 17.
Items of interest regarding the South Dakota State – South Carolina game.
Though the Colorado Buffaloes play in the Coors Events Center, it’s the Russell “Sox” Walseth Court. Walseth coached at SDSU in 1956 and 1957. Aaron Johnston was asked about it at the press conference with the question posed as whether the potential was there for the Jacks to pick up on some “mojo”.
“I don’t know, I wasn’t alive in the 1950s,” Johnston said. “Maybe they had mojo back then. It’s a neat history, though. I learned that when we played an exhibition game out here one year. It was an exhibition game, and we were Division II at the time and we cameout here and afan was telling me about some of the history before the game. That’s when I found out about it. It’s a neat piece of trivia.”
I really liked Dawn Staley. Based on her credentials, she’s nothing short of one of the best women’s basketball players who ever lived. I gather that she’s sort of a task-master with her team. Her explanation of her coaching philosophy was telling:
“Defense is all I know as a coach to put yourself in a position to win basketball games,” she said. “Offense can be so unpredictable. It takes talent to be a good offensive team and a good offensive player. To be a good defensive team it is a decision. You are either going to do it or you are not. As a coach you have to put your team in the best possible situation to win basketball games and the way you do that is you defend and you rebound.”
Coaches with well-established reputations – who were also fantastic players themselves – can sell recruits on that philosophy. I’m guessing most coaches have to fancy-up that pitch initially, however.
I was curious about what AJ felt about watching the Jackrabbit men on Thursday. It was just shortly after the chartered flight landed that those on the plane were going to need to find a place to watch the game.
I thought AJ put the whole thing in perspective pretty well:
“We watched the whole thing from start to finish. I think our guys probably left the court feeling like they left some positive plays out there. I think part of why they had some challenges was because they were playing Michigan, and Michigan is pretty good.
“I think it will be the same for us, too. That’s what we felt after the last two tournament games. We walked off the court not feeling great, but we also walked off recognizing that a lot of it had to do with playing Oklahoma, Xavier or Purdue. That’s just how it goes this time of year.
“ We’ve told our team that we’ll have to play great, but we’re capable of playing great. We can’t go out and play an average game and expect to win. If we play a great game, which we’ve done throughout our history, we’ve got a chance to beat a lot of people. I know our men felt that way going into it and they didn’t have a great game and they lost. Our goal is to go out and play good basketball, and I think we’re capable of that. This team has played well all year and we’ve played some really good teams. It will be fun to see how we respond in the game.”
A few months after collapsing in historic proportions in Logan, Utah., the Coyote women fought through miserably concentrated offensive woes and defeated Utah State on the road on Thursday night to reverse an earlier one-point regular season loss to the Aggies.
Utah State was the second-best team in the WAC this year with a 14-4 record. I submit this as evidence that Utah State got better as the season went along this year, but in this instance, it wasn’t enough to win at home. The Coyotes have won six of their last seven games now, with the only blemish a 56-53 loss to SDSU in the Summit League final next week.
Nicole Seekamp continues her strong finish to the season. Her 33 points was the most since Ol’ Straps McGonagle scored 44 against the Springfield Teacher’s College in 1942. Made that last part up. Seekamp has been performing as advertised in recent days, however. It’s not like she’s winning games all by herself but you’re beginning to see how good a player she really is. The sense of urgency she brings to the big games would be what Coyote fans should find most encouraging. In most instances recently when she’s been putting up big numbers, it’s been because the team needs them.
On Thursday night in the opening round of the Women’s Basketball Invitational, she hit 11-of-16, 4-of-6 on 3’s and 7-of-8 from the line.
You just can’t look past numbers like that if you’re trying to figure out why one team won and the other team lost. Those who are looking toward the future should also have been encouraged by the work underneath from sophomore Lisa Loeffler, who had eight points and nine rebounds, and freshman Margaret McCloud, who had seven points and seven rebounds.
My experience in watching college basketball is that if guards are good, you see it right away. The taller you are, the more time it usually takes to realize potential. In Loeffler and McCloud, the Coyotes have two taller players who play pretty hard and are contributing early in their careers.
Loeffler’s touch from the 10-12 foot range should get her a lot of points in the next few seasons and McCloud’s instincts and aggressiveness under the hoop is distinctive. The Coyotes really haven’t been able to boast their post-play as an offensive strength since Mandy Koupal was a dominating force in Division II. Bridget Yoerger was a very solid offensive player underneath but she was all alone at that spot, even on the Division II runner-up team.
I would guess both Loeffler and McCloud will continue to improve offensively next season. Coupled with presence of Polly Harrington – who scored 15 points against USU – the Coyotes’ post play will be a definite matchup issue for most of the rest of the Summit League next season.
Lamar, which defeated Presbyterian 70-48 on Wednesday night, will be the Coyotes’ next foe. Lamar (22-10) will host USD at 3 p.m. on Sunday. The second-seeded Cards finished 12-6 in the Southland Conference this year. As a point of reference, they lost twice to Oral Roberts, a former perennial Summit League contender.
Their top scorer is Kalis Loyd, a 6-2 native of Sweden who averaged 17.8 points and 7.2 rebounds a game. She pretty much does it all for the Cards and dealing with her offensive skills will play a huge role in whether the Coyotes can win for the second time in a week.
It was a funny moment on Monday when USD women’s coach Amy Williams was describing watching the Jackrabbits play in the NCAA tournament last year. Williams was the coach at Rogers State and her sister, Emilee Thiesse, was an assistant coach for Aaron Johnston at SDSU.
“When they’d hit a 3 to put it into overtime I was just beside myself,” Williams said. “And now here I am on the other end of it. It’s kind of funny how things turn.”
The Coyotes will be big underdogs going into this game. The manner in which the Jackrabbits dispatched Fort Wayne on Monday afternoon was pretty crisp. Fort Wayne was a little groggy from having played two overtimes the day before, but even so, SDSU was not messing around.
If I thought the Coyotes had played poorly in either of their losses to SDSU during the regular season, perhaps there would be reason to think things could stay competitive today from start to finish, but I thought USD played pretty well in both losses to the Jacks. As such, taking a Summit championship today would be a huge upset.
Certainly in the last few weeks there has been an upswing on the part of the Coyotes in their ability to get their offense rolling occasionally, and you’d have to figure that into what happens today. You also have to figure in, however, how sharp the Jacks looked in two wins in three days so far.
SDSU will be playing three games in four days and USD will be playing three games in three days. As well, the Jacks really didn’t have to go crazy to win those games whereas USD, though they built up comfortable margins in wins over NDSU and IUPUI, had to devote a lot of energy to those projects to do so.
It’s all first-time stuff for USD in the tournament and the players, who have not been in these situations before, have reacted well to it. Most notably Nicole Seekamp has made the most of the opportunity. In both games she got everyone going in second-half surges. I’ve also really been impressed with the work of Sam Mehr. It’s a nice story — Mehr is a senior who hasn’t played a lot. She’s can be a deadeye shooter, something her teammates have been well aware of the last few years, though spectators haven’t seen it quite so much. They’re seeing it this week, however, with seven 3’s in two games.
You’ll see some pretty fierce battles for the basketball underneath today. If USD can hang in there on the boards, they’re going to have a much better shot at staying with SDSU. I think the real key for the Coyotes will be shooting, however. They’re going against a team that has been here before, and a team that will have 80-85 percent of the crowd emphatically on its side. Knocking down a few 3’s early for USD would have a settling effect.
I don’t think the Coyotes can win a grind-it-out 16-for-48 kind of a game against SDSU — they’re going to have score some of their points without having to stand on their heads to do so. On the plus side for USD, I kind of expected the Coyotes to struggle more offensively given this was their first Summit League tournament, but the opposite has been true. In the second half against NDSU and IUPUI they played their best basketball of the season.
Regardless of what happens today, departed athletic director David Sayler — Sayler, how the hell did he get into this blog? — appears to have made a smart decision in hiring Amy Williams, who was coming off a five-year stint running an NAIA program. People I’ve talked to in the basketball business this week have been very positive about what she and her staff have done in getting the squad through the season and prepared for this tournament.
The NDSU team that the USD women will play on Sunday afternoon has been a very difficult matchup for the third-seeded Coyotes for three of the four halves of basketball they’ve played against each other this season.
In the second half of the first game up in Fargo, the Coyotes overcame a halftime deficit by outscoring the Bison 42-15 in the second half on the way to an easy win. The game was played in early January and is not particularly pertinent to the current situation, though it seemed to hint that if the Coyotes can shoot a little bit, they can overcome whatever it was the Bison were doing to make life so difficult in the second game the pair played, a 57-50 Bison victory at the Dome.
. NDSU guards Dani Degagne and Katie Birkel took 39 of the team’s 59 shots that day and finished with 17 and 24 points, respectively, in NDSU’s surprising win at the Dome.
As I remember it, NDSU challenged the Coyotes to beat them from the outside in that contest and was rewarded for doing so. USD hit 5-of-26 on 3-pointers and, after crushing the Bison on the boards in the first game, actually lost the battle of the glass in the second game 39-38.
I’ve harped a little on shooting being an issue for this squad but statistically they’re the second-best shooting team in the conference, so maybe it’s not a big deal. The Coyotes could definitely use a good shooting night from Nicole Seekamp, however. The Coyotes’ leading scorer for the season hit 8-of-16 shots in a win over Western Illinois in the team’s second-to-last regular season game but in USD’s other five games played since the home loss to SDSU, she’s hit a combined 11 of 52 from the field.
In her defense, she’s been called on to take a lot of the tough shots when the opposing team has taken away the Coyotes’ other offensive options at the end of the possession clock road in half-court situations. Seeing your top scorer knocking down a few shots early would go a long way toward establishing some momentum on Sunday, however.
USD has won its last three games and the Bison have lost four of their last five coming into their 2:30 p.m. contest at the Arena so you’d have to figure momentum is on the Coyotes’ side. My feeling is that they’re going to have to meet the challenge of hitting outside shots often enough to bring the defense out a little bit. If NDSU can pack in its defense without fear in the halfcourt, it’s going to be much more difficult game for USD.
Another close loss to Western Illinois is not anything new for the USD men’s basketball team. The squads had two two-point games this year with the Leathernecks winning both and the second game between the two teams last year was also a two-point USD loss.
All three of those games were tough to deal with – the close losses the last two years keep piling up – but it would also seem to confirm this will not be a standard co-champion vs. also-ran matchup next Saturday at The Arena. Western Illinois is hobbled with power forward Terell Parks suffering a foot injury in a BracketBuster game against Cleveland State. Parks is one of the top rebounders and defenders in the league who also has a strong offensive presence. His status for next Saturday is uncertain and the team isn’t giving out a ton of info on that so far.
Resilience in a losing cause is a tough way to go through a basketball season, but the Coyotes continue to supply it. Juevol Myles missed a shot with six seconds left that could have made things even more interesting but the only reason it was a decisive shot was because the dude had been going nuts up to that point. He hit two 3-pointers and a layup in the last 44 seconds that had an unusually large crowd of 5,089 momentarily wondering whether the Necks were going to be able to secure a co-championship with SDSU in the last regular-season game.
Western Illinois was a surprise championship game team at the Summit tournament last year and nearly pulled off an upset of SDSU in the final. Given the environment and the quality of the opponent in that contest, you’d have to figure the veteran Leatherneck squad will not be fearing the idea that there might be a few people in the seats this year who want the other team to win.
If you look at it from the other side, Western Illinois isn’t enjoying the greatest luck. You earn a share of the title and your reward is that you’re playing a seventh seed that took games down to the last seconds twice with you during the regular season. In addition, you have to play that seventh seed with a home crowd watching them. Plus, your big gun underneath is extremely iffy. That’s what you call a bad hand.
Based on the recent history with WIU, USD has a decent opening-round shot at advancing, though the Leathernecks remain a difficult matchup physically and seem to be conspicuously tough mentally. Ceola Clark, who drove the length of the court at the DakotaDome in the last seconds to beat USD, is a gamer. My feeling is that if USD becomes dependent on Myles, Trevor Gruis and Brandon Bos for all the shots on Saturday, they’re going to lose. If somebody from the second-tier of scorers on the team makes significant offensive contributions, it could be a very good game. At any rate, it’s not a typical 2 vs. 7 matchup.