SOUTH DAKOTA COYOTES
Overall Record: 10-20
Summit League Record (Finish): 5-11 (t-7th)
Postseason: Lost in Summit quarterfinal
2013-14 QUICK GLANCE
Interim Head Coach (Season): Joey James (1st)
Men's Basketball Page | Schedule | Roster
Web Page: goyotes.com
"I'd say [the team has] been very receptive. They are competing every single day. I think the big thing for us right now is we have to get better defensively and from a rebounding standpoint. But we're improving on that and offensively, we have thrown in some different things within our motion offense. Right now, we're just trying to get better day-by-day and week-by-week. As the season comes around, it's kind of the same thing in the non-league, we're just trying to improve over the weeks and the months leading up to The Summit League. We're trying to finish in that top half this year." – Head coach Joey James
C Trevor Gruis (12.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.9 bpg); G Brandon Bos (11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, All-Summit League honorable mention); G Casey Kasperbauer (8.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.8 apg); G Karim Rowson (7.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.7 apg); F Tyler Flack (5.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.7 apg)
SUMMIT LEAGUE PRESEASON POLL
All-League Selection: Trevor Gruis (2nd)
BLUE RIBBON COLLEGE BASKETBALL YEARBOOK
Analysis Excerpts: The Coyotes were looking forward to the second act in their Division I performance, but Dave Boots' [retirement] announcement has created upheaval. The fact that [interim coach Joey] James played for Boots and had been an assistant for 10 years makes the transition a lot easier. Don't expect a lot of changes, other than some more man-to-man defense, the better to combat the spate of ball screens and pick-and-rolls opponents employ.
South Dakota isn't ready to run to the top of the Summit, and that is not a shot at James. Even if Boots had stayed, this team is still a year away. But with only two seniors on the roster and a much stronger collection of talent, the Coyotes are headed in the right direction. That's something James wants to stick around to see.
Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook, the "bible" of preseason preview publications, is now in its 33rd printing. To see the complete version of this story, as well as 344 other profiles of Division I schools, order the 400-page 2013-14 edition at www.blueribbonyearbookonline.com or by calling 877-807-4857.
OTHER PRESEASON PROJECTIONS
Athlon Sports: 7th
Lindy's Sports: 6th
NBC Sports Talk: 7th
Sporting News: 6th
USA Today: 8th
The South Dakota Coyotes have a new men's basketball coach for the first time in a quarter century. Former player and long-time assistant Joey James was named interim head coach in September following the retirement of David Boots. James inherits a roster he helped put together. It is one full of athleticism, talent and youth.
Last year's Coyote team had an eight-man rotation. This year's team will certainly feature more. South Dakota returns five players who started at least 18 games last season, adds sophomores Trey Norris and Adam Thoseby, who had to sit out a year after moving to Vermillion, and returns junior Tyler Larson, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Those are many of the returners.
The newcomers include Tavian Pomlee, a junior transfer from Iowa Western Community College (same program as Charlie Westbook) who averaged 13 points and 5.5 rebounds while leading the Reivers to a 32-win season. Freshman Bounama Keita is a 6-foot-10 post player from Senegal. Rico Thompson was an all-state point guard for Stillwater High School in Oklahoma last year. Freshman Austin Sparks, a 6-foot-8 forward from Denver, averaged 11 points for coach Frank Lee and Fairview High School.
"It has been competitive these first few weeks of practice," said James. "Eight of our 13 scholarship players are either freshmen or sophomores and seven have never put on a Coyote uniform. There is going to be a learning curve, but we have depth and should have a better scoring balance this season. It wouldn't be unexpected to have players come off our bench and have a better night than a starter."
Given that depth, James is hopeful he can play more man-to-man defense this season. How much more is likely to be determined by the opponent. Make no mistake; the Coyotes will still feature the matchup zone defense incorporated by Boots, but the athleticism featured on this roster will provide for more options.
On offense, James is asking for more consistency, meaning he would like to have more than a few players atop the scoring chart. Last year's Coyotes had three players averaging 11 points or more. Everyone else averaged less than nine points.
"We plan on playing fast and under control with discipline," said James. "We were one of the best offensive transition teams in the country last season, but one of the worst in terms of transition defense. If we are going to compete in the Summit League, we have to defend, rebound and improve in transition."
There are likely two reasons why USD ranked so highly in its offensive transition. The Coyotes were one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the country, making nearly as many free throws (463) as their opponents attempted (466). Secondly, Brandon Bos had a 17-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio in transition, easily one of the best in the country. Bos returns as a junior this season.
"Bos is one of the most versatile players on our team," said James. "Last year, he played a wing on our match-up zone. He can play any of the guard positions and will likely share the point position with Norris to start the season."
Bos began last season as a reserve, but quickly emerged and started 18 of the final 19 games of the season. He averaged 11 points, four rebounds and two assists.
Norris is a 6-foot point guard with a good combination of speed, quickness and acceleration. Norris was recruited by the Coyotes out of high school, but began his collegiate career closer to home at North Texas. He transferred to USD and sat out last season.
"Trey is fast with the ball and explosive in the open court," said James. "The thing I like most is that he is a pass-first point guard and we haven't had that in some time. He's young and has to improve defensively, but he will do a nice job of balancing our team in the half court."
Thompson averaged nearly 20 points per game at Stillwater High School a year ago and may eventually work his way into the point guard rotation, but a foot injury in the preseason is expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks. A decision on whether to redshirt Thompson will likely be made near the holiday break.
Of course any conversation about Coyote basketball will include senior center Trevor Gruis, a preseason All-Summit League pick after averaging 12 points and six rebounds a year ago. Gruis scored his 1,000th career point in the Summit League Tournament last season. He was one of the most accurate shooters in the nation at 56 percent.
"We have always told Trevor that if he is not an all-conference player, then something happened," said James. "He is one of the best offensive players in the league, no question. He is taking his defensive play more seriously as a senior and he has been one of our more vocal leaders in practice."
Sophomore Tyler Flack started 19 games last season and led the team with 40 blocked shots while averaging five points and four boards. Flack will see time at both the four and five this season.
"Tyler is a special athlete and when it is all said and done, he could be a terrific player in this program," said James. "Our job is to get him to that point."
Pomlee and sophomore Eric Robertson will soak up minutes in the front court as well. Both are pick-and-pop guys who can shoot the three. Pomlee shot 38 percent from long range a year ago. Robertson hit 10 treys as a freshman.
"Tavian is one of our better athletes," said James. "He runs the floor better than any guy we have from baseline to baseline. He will help us a lot.
"Eric has been impressive. He has put on some weight and is tougher than he was a year ago. He is starting to understand our system and he rebounds better. He will help us at the four position."
The wings include Larson and senior Karim Rowson, who started 19 games and averaged eight points in his first year as a Coyote. Larson was touted as one of the team's best defensive players before injuring his knee. The injury has healed, but he is still trying to get his legs underneath him. Rowson's talents lie in getting to the rim and finishing, but he has worked on his jump shot to keep defenses honest.
"If Karim can stay consistent with his jump shot, he is going to be a tough man to guard," said James. "He has been impressive in early practices. As one of two seniors, it has hit him that this is his last go-around."
The back court is rounded out by Thoseby and sophomore Casey Kasperbauer, one of the top freshmen in the league last season and one of the deadliest three-point shooters in the nation. Kasperbauer made a team-high 62 treys on 42 percent shooting. He started 24 of 30 games and averaged nearly nine points. To expand his game, Kasperbauer has been taking shots off the dribble, something he did often as a prolific scorer in high school.
Thoseby will compliment Kasperbauer as a serious offensive threat. James says he can score at all levels, meaning he can hit the 3, hit a pull-up jumper or get to the basket.
"The great thing about Adam is his size," said James. "He is 6-foot-6 and can get his shot off anytime he wants to."
The roles of freshmen Bounama and Sparks are yet to be determined. Bounama has been held out of practice with a leg injury and it could be three more weeks before he puts on a practice jersey. Sparks is highly skilled with size and an understanding of the game. He can hit the 3 and can post up and face the basket.
The Coyotes' two walk-ons include junior Jack Foley, who appeared in three games last season, and freshman Vlad Stoicoviciu from Romania. Both work hard, love the game and enjoy being on the court according to James.