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'Coachable' Cheeseman thrives on national stage

Kynedi Cheeseman was ready for another practice session after the welcome home celebration for the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team last week.

Dakota Wesleyan's Kynedi Cheeseman splits a pair of Concordia defenders during the NAIA Division II National Championship game on March 13 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan's Kynedi Cheeseman splits a pair of Concordia defenders during the NAIA Division II National Championship game on March 13 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Kynedi Cheeseman was ready for another practice session after the welcome home celebration for the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team last week.

Despite DWU winning the national championship, she didn't want her season to end. And who can blame her?

The 5-foot-10 sophomore had a breakout 2017-18 campaign, which culminated with the former Hanson standout earning MVP honors at the national tournament after averaging 21.6 points in five tournament games. Cheeseman emerged as a go-to player along with senior Ashley Bray for the Tigers.

"Kynedi Cheeseman really stepped up in this tournament," Amber Bray said after the national championship game. "She's always been a great player, but she hit the open shots and knocked them down when it counted."

Cheeseman played in all 38 games for DWU this season, starting 37 games and leading the team in points per game with 14.9. She shot 43 percent from the field and 35 percent from behind the arc, knocking down 75 3-pointers.

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"She's a coachable kid," DWU head coach Jason Christensen said. "She's going to continue to get better because she's so coachable. She just wants to learn."

Christensen said Cheeseman's dedication and work ethic after her freshman season stood out. He noted she put plenty of extra time in the gym during the summer and offseason, which led to her earning a starting spot at the start of the season.

"I could tell this is where she wanted to be and she wanted to lead the team," Christensen said.

Cheeseman continued to hit big shots for the Tigers during the national tournament and finished the championship game with 26 points. She had strings of seven and eight consecutive points in the semifinal and national title games.

After averaging 5.8 points as freshman, Cheeseman said she learned what it took to thrive at the college level.

"I've gotten a lot more confident with my game," Cheeseman said. "A lot of my confidence was given to me by my teammates and my coaches. They believed in me a lot more this season and for that I'm thankful."

At the welcome home celebration, Cheeseman continued to praise her teammates, saying she'd like to break the MVP trophy into pieces and give them to the entire team.

"The seniors made practice really fun," Cheeseman said. "When things got intense in practice they were the ones that kept our heads up and gave us motivation to continue to work hard."

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Despite playing high school basketball in Alexandria, just 15 miles from Mitchell, Cheeseman said she never felt any extra pressure to thrive for the hometown Tigers. She added the extra support she receives from the Alexandria community makes it even more special.

"There's more family and friends. When I look into the crowd, I see my high school teachers, neighbors and younger athletes," Cheeseman said. "That's really awesome for me."

And even minutes after winning the national championship, Cheeseman didn't shy away from looking towards her junior season. She didn't back down from that outlook a few days after the game, either.

"We have some incoming freshmen that can provide a lot for our team," Cheeseman said. "We have to keep the pedal to the ground."

Related Topics: NAIA
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