Wes Morgan and Tim McCain have been enjoying the ride. But to say they’re surprised watching their former players -- senior Macy Miller and sophomore Myah Selland -- lead the South Dakota State University women’s basketball team to uncharted territory would be false.
Miller, who played under Morgan at Mitchell High School, and the former Sanborn Central/Woonsocket standout under McCain, Selland, have been key components in SDSU’s first trip to the Sweet 16 in program history. Miller was The Daily Republic’s girls basketball player of the year in 2013 and 2014 and Selland won it three straight times from 2015 to 2017.
Selland had 17 points, eight rebounds and five assists, while Miller added an 11-point, 10-rebound double-double in the No. 6 seed Jackrabbits’ 75-64 win over No. 3 Syracuse on Monday. They play No. 2 Oregon at 10 p.m. Friday in Portland, Oregon, in the Sweet 16.
“It’s just exciting to see someone that you’ve coached and seen play the last couple of years,” McCain said. “It’s fun to see them make that run and have the excitement of making the Sweet 16.”
The improvements the players have made at SDSU are evident, specifically their strength and selflessness on the court, according to the coaches who both said they try to watch most of their games on the internet or TV.
But just like the success they’re seeing in the NCAA Tournament, that isn’t a surprise. Their work ethic was there before they arrived in Brookings.
Morgan saw that work ethic before Miller became a two-time Summit League player of the year and the conference’s all-time leading scorer. That was one of the main things he remembers about coaching Miller, along with winning and her ability to make others better.
“When you get someone who is that talented and has the work ethic like she does, she’s as good as she wants to be,” Morgan said, of Miller. “She works hard at it, and she tries to get better everyday. She doesn’t skip workouts and she does stuff on her own.”
He was there at the start when she was working on her patented step-back, which has helped her average 18.1 points and 6.1 boards per game this season.
“We worked really hard on that step-back -- take it to the left, pop back and shoot it,” Morgan said. “That was a move we worked on quite a bit to get away from the defense. She got pretty deadly at that shot.”
The determination to succeed and ability to lift a team was seen in Selland, too. McCain said it’s different rooting for Selland as a fan instead of coaching her, though “It’s still rooting for a South Dakota school.”
Selland has done a good job “adapting to the game,” according to McCain. The forward adds 12.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest this season.
“She was an intense competitor and always looking to make her teammates better,” McCain said about coaching her at SCW.
Their play has put SDSU in the limelight, and brought Morgan along, too. He said it was “fun” to talk to Syracuse’s student paper ‘The Daily Orange’ and KELO-TV about Miller’s career this week, as he still vividly recalls her competitiveness.
“Probably the biggest thing for Macy is she’s so competitive,” Morgan said. “She wants to kick your butt. She wants to win. Some kids have that and some don’t.”
She, Selland and the rest of SDSU have been kicking butt this March. And that shouldn’t be a surprise.