Mitchell's dynamic SDSU duo
BROOKINGS--After reuniting on a basketball court for the first time since high school, Mitchell natives Kerri Young and Macy Miller turned heads playing together at South Dakota State University.
BROOKINGS-After reuniting on a basketball court for the first time since high school, Mitchell natives Kerri Young and Macy Miller turned heads playing together at South Dakota State University.
Young, a junior shooting guard, and Miller, a sophomore point guard, were instrumental in leading the Jackrabbits to a national tournament appearance after defeating in-state rival University of South Dakota 72-57 in the Summit League Tournament Championship in 2014-15.
The Jackrabbits later fell to Oregon State 74-62 in their first matchup in the national tournament.
"It was a lot of fun," said Miller, who averaged 13.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest while leading the team with 92 assists last season. "Just saying I was able to go to the national tournament in my freshman year and play a great Oregon State team was a great experience. I'm looking forward to trying to do the same thing this year."
But this season, after being picked to win the Summit League in the preseason coaches poll, Jackrabbits coach Aaron Johnston expects more leadership from both of his point guards on the floor.
Johnston said he hopes Miller shoots more 3-pointers after only attempting 63 last season (converting 20). He added she may play different positions for SDSU besides point guard.
"I think Macy is shooting the ball really well," Johnston said. "She always was before, but now she's relying more on her three-point shot, and last year it was always get to the basket first. We want to make sure she doesn't get too content, because she is so good at getting to the rim. I think she's finding shooters better, her assist numbers will go up this year I think, but she'll still score points for us. There might even be times where we need her to play a three for us this year, because we'll need her length and strength for different positions."
Johnston's expectations aren't a shock to the former Mitchell Kernel. Miller said she, along with the rest of the Jackrabbits, are accepting the roles Johnston is giving them.
"I'd say this year, I've grown as a player," Miller said. "I've tried to become a leader on the court, and more vocal on the court compared to high school. I feel like I'm growing up."
Meanwhile, Young-who averaged 9.4 points and 2.9 rebounds per game while dishing out 87 assists last season-will reprise her role as a sharpshooter for SDSU. After shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc a season ago, Young has the green light to let it go from long-range.
"I think I'm more comfortable and confident, just because I know my role on the team," Young said. "I know everything AJ and the rest of the coaching staff expect of me. I always try to shoot when I'm open, and I shoot with confidence."
But Young won't have Megan Waytashek-who averaged 14.1 points for the Jackrabbits last year-as a backcourt partner to garner attention from opposing defenses. Johnston said he hopes Young can fill the role Waytashek gave SDSU in 2014-15.
"I think her role overall, she needs to get down more at that wing spot," he said. "Last year, she was able to play with someone like Megan Waytashek who took a lot of pressure off other players. This year, Kerri needs to assume that leadership role for our perimeter group and I think you see that from her right now."
The road to the national tournament won't be easy for the Jackrabbits. SDSU will have to contend with USD-the reigning Summit League regular season champion-and Summit League preseason player of the year Nicole Seekamp.
The Coyotes were picked to finish second in the preseason coaches poll.
"I think having two South Dakota teams up there is fun for all the area fans," Johnston said. "South Dakota has always been a great basketball state, and a great women's basketball state. It will be fun to see how both teams do, and while we have a lot to get done before we get to that point, it will certainly be fun to follow the whole league."
SDSU also faces a grueling non-conference schedule, which includes home contests against the Notre Dame and Arkansas, as well as road contests against Pittsburgh, Maryland and Old Dominion.
"That's something we're really looking forward to," Young said. "Not many programs get to play teams like Notre Dame and Maryland, teams that have made it to the Final Four and championship games. It's something that motivates us every day to get better and compete with them.
"We're always looking to be the best and finish with the best. We want to compete at the highest level that we can, and we're really pushing ourselves to do that."