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SDSU coach says Kerri Young to be impact player, 'if not starter'

Kerri Young has the ability to be an impact player, if not starter, for the South Dakota State University women’s basketball team, said head coach Aaron Johnston.

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“She has natural gifts,” said Johnston, who would not disclose his starters in a phone interview Thursday. “She’s very fast and instinctive and all the things you want in a player.”

The Jackrabbits, who have qualified for the NCAA tournament for five straight years, hit the floor in an exhibition game against Bemidji State at 2 p.m. Sunday at Frost Arena in Brookings.

Although SDSU’s schedule showcases its regular Summit League opponents, it’s the nonconference games that catch the eye. This season, the Jackrabbits play Stanford, Penn State and Notre Dame.

“I think it’s really exciting and it motivates you every day because we want to compete with them and not just play against them,” Young said.

Johnston, who is entering his 13th year as head of the women’s program, said Young’s performance on the floor early in the season will gauge what her role is as the season progresses.

“We’ll see how she handles playing against some of those teams like Notre Dame and see how that all falls into place,” he said. “We’re cautious about starting freshmen right off the bat because we want to see how she handles those big games.”

Johnston added one of Young’s strengths is her knowledge of the game.

“You give her a piece of information and she’s got it,” he said.

During her career as a Mitchell Kernel, Young led the girls’ team to a Class AA state championship in 2012 and surpassed Mike Miller’s all-time leading scoring record as a senior. She holds the record with 1,753 points, which she accumulated during her five-year varsity career. Miller plays for the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies and has won two NBA championships with the Miami Heat.

Since moving to Brookings in the summer, Young has improved her game by getting stronger and partaking in individual and team workouts.

“The big thing I’ve noticed is the pace of the game and how important it is to get stronger,” she said. “Lifting three times a week has really helped me to be better.”

During individual workouts with the coaches, Young said she’s been able to focus on specific parts of her game, such as reading and beating the defender.

“They are really helpful because you can focus on one thing and then you can bring those skills back to the group,” she said.

“We have good players on the team, and I’ve learned to come in and play confident. I need to be assertive and aggressive all the time. You don’t get easy days.”

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.