Caden Hinker, a 6-foot-7 forward for the Mitchell High School basketball team, announced via Twitter and Instagram on Tuesday, Sept. 28, that he accepted a scholarship offer to stay in South Dakota and play for Augustana University.
Hinker said it came down to three schools in the running, but his gut feeling made the decision quite simple.
“Augustana felt like home,” Hinker said. “I had that gut feeling and after talking to their coaching staff and players, they just really made me feel welcome. It felt like a good fit for me.”
Hinker wanted to make a decision before Mitchell’s season began this winter and said it’s nice to be done with the process.
“I wanted to make my decision before basketball season so I could just get it out of the way,” Hinker said. “That way teams can move on with their recruiting process and also so I can be set in stone with where I’m going.”
Hinker, who is heading into his senior season, received offers from seven different Division II programs, but the race came down to Northwest Missouri State, University of Sioux Falls and Augustana University. After canceling out Northwest Missouri State because of the distance from his hometown, it came down to two remaining schools, and with Hinker having a previous relationship with Augustana, the answer was clear.
Augustana, an NCAA Division II University in Sioux Falls, is coached by Tom Billeter. Billeter has coached the Vikings for over 17 seasons and has more than 300 career wins. He also led the program to the 2016 NCAA Division II National Championship. Hinker said the history and possibility of Augustana becoming a Division I program in the foreseeable future also factored into the decision.
“(Tom) has had a lot of success with the program, and I know what I’m getting into is a good fit and they’ve reassured me of that,” Hinker said.
Last season for the Kernels, Hinker earned Class AA first-team all-state honors, averaging 17.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and five assists per game on 46 percent shooting from the field. He led Mitchell in scoring for three straight years and is one of six players in program history to surpass 1,000 career points. Hinker will have opportunities to flourish in the Augustana offense, due to the uptempo style of play and playing on the perimeter.
“The way they play I fit right into their scheme,” Hinker said. “It’s uptempo; they like to get out and run, and they have bigs that can shoot the ball."
Adding Hinker to the Vikings’ rotation next season will help them get back to an uptempo play-style that seemed to be the key for their success en route to that 2016 National Championship. Augustana averaged 90.3 points per game that season on 51 percent from the field and 43 percent from three.
Hinker said that style of play will only add to his growth as a player and will use this season to work on his skills before entering the next level.
“I want to hone in on all my skills,” Hinker said. “Especially my ball handling and making sure I can play the perimeter at my best and guard the perimeter as well. That way I can be more of a two-way player ... They said the way they play basketball, I’ll fit really well into the program, so I think they’ll use me in the right ways.”