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DWU women sticking with similar approach

Fresh off a national championship, it's business as usual for the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team. The Tigers are the NAIA Division II national champions heading into next season, but coach Jason Christensen and his assistant C...

Dakota Wesleyan University head coach Jason Christensen cheers on his team in the quarterfinals of the NAIA Division II National Tournament March 10 at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball coach Jason Christensen cheers on the Tigers during a game March 11 in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball National Tournament at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Fresh off a national championship, it's business as usual for the Dakota Wesleyan University women's basketball team.

The Tigers are the NAIA Division II national champions heading into next season, but coach Jason Christensen and his assistant Celeste Beck aren't treating this offseason any different than previous ones.

"I don't treat it much differently," Christensen said. "I know the people in the public do. They ask you how it feels and this and that. Celeste and I are still going about business the same way and just trying to get kids to come here and trying to find kids that are the right fit for Dakota Wesleyan."

But it's obvious that the first national championship in school history has had its positives and benefits and Christensen said it's motivated the current Tigers to stay in the gym. The Tigers have close to 25 total players during open gym, compared to about 15-17 in previous offseasons.

"When we have our open gyms in the summer and our kids play, we usually run on one court and now we are running both courts," Christensen said. "So that's how many more kids we have."

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They've also garnered more interest in their camps. The Tigers have hosted camps in Mitchell, Chamberlain, Murdo, Presho, Tea and Armour this season, while also loading up for next offseason on the area circuit.

"We have gotten a lot more interest," Christensen said. "We have turned a lot of camps away. We have already scheduled for next year. We have seven towns already scheduled for next year."

On the recruiting side, the Tigers have some momentum. DWU recently announced commitments from Tripp's Mattilynn Reiner, Dell Rapids' Emma Paul and Sioux Falls' Sydnaya Dunn.

"What it does is it just takes the pressure off of you," Christensen said. "There's times when we are at the end of July and we are still trying to get that difference-maker to commit to us. I really feel we have three difference-makers that committed to us already. It takes the pressure off us with this class. We have some other kids we still definitely want to get, but it helps to always get that first one."

The exposure of winning the national championship has opened up some recruiting doors. DWU normally focuses on recruiting locally, but they've been contacted by players across the country after watching the Tigers win the national title.

"We have been getting calls from California. We had a kid from Texas call us," Christensen said. "It's kind of neat. Part of that is they either watched the national tournament on TV or they heard that we won a national tournament."

The new season begins Oct. 30 for the Tigers, hosting Valley City State (N.D.) at the Corn Palace.

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