In March, three players who competed with the Dakota Schoolers - two of them former high school teammates - helped South Dakota State reach the NCAA Division I men's basketball tournament. It put an ultra-local layer on a big story.
Something similar may be brewing on the women's side.
The players who have verbally committed to the Jackrabbits - Mitchell senior Kerri Young, Mitchell junior Macy Miller and Pierre junior Kaitlyn Severyn - are suiting up this summer for the Schoolers girls program. Not surprisingly, they're doing well, too.
The 6-foot Young is leading the 3-0 Dakota Schoolers Robey in scoring at the Dakota Showcase (13.7 ppg), while the 5-11 Miller is doing the same for the 3-0 Dakota Schoolers Parish (14.3 ppg), a club comprised of underclassmen that also features the 6-foot Severyn.
Both teams won their pools Friday to earn entry into today's championship quarterfinals at the Elmen Center. Those games start at 11:20 a.m. with the finals set for 8:40 p.m. Others still in the running from the initial field of 40: two-time defending Minnesota Class 4A prep champion Hopkins and the Sioux Falls Warriors - the summer version of the Washington High School program that has become a perennial state title contender.
An opportunity like this is on the short list of reasons that Young joined the Schoolers for the first time this summer instead of playing exclusively with her high school mates, who won the Class AA state title last winter.
"I thought it would help me out," she explained, "get me better for the regular season."
The greatest area of improvement so far: added confidence. Young feels more certain of her abilities after testing them against so many future college players. She'll try to carry that over to the high school season - not that her averages of 19.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 3.2 assists last season were the least bit shabby - and beyond.
Did the trio plot their futures together? Not exactly. But there's no denying they talked about that possibility. It became a selling point last June when Severyn became the first to verbal.
History shows that SDSU stands to benefit from the shared history. Four of the key cogs in the 2012-13 team hail from South Dakota and got to know each other well before stepping on campus. And the SDSU men have fared well with players who gave early verbals and spent their summers with the Schoolers: Chad White and Tony Fiegen of Madison plus Winner's Zach Horstman.
"That's one of the positive things about this - the positive relationships that are formed," Schoolers coach Jamie Parish said. "There's a lot of positive peer pressure."
New father back at work
Travis Traphagen didn't look like a first-time father Friday afternoon - namely because he was in a gym rather than a hospital room. But, indeed, his wife, Ann, gave birth to a baby boy at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, and about 24 hours later the University of Sioux Falls women's basketball coach was back on the recruiting trail inside the Elmen Center.
"Some people probably see me here and say, 'What the hell are you doing?'" he said with a smile. "I didn't leave until mom was asleep and our little boy was asleep. That's definitely the most important thing. But the reality is you still have a job to do, as well."
Traphagen has been in the coaching business since 2001 but claimed to have zero experience holding a baby until becoming an uncle a few years ago. Fatherhood will be a whole new game, one that's bound to cut into his time on the golf course.
Traphagen is fine with that, joking that he wasn't that good, anyway.
"I have the best of both worlds now," he said. "I love what I do in coaching, but now to add another member to our family - we're really excited about it."
Wisconsin teams dominated pool play on the boys side, finishing first in all four sections. Included: The Wisconsin Blizzard Kellett, which stayed in the running for a second championship in as many weeks by overcoming a 13-point deficit to knock off the South Dakota Heat 17 in their final game of pool play. ... On the girls side, South Dakota teams earned four quarterfinal bids, the Dakota Blue Devils I joining the two Schoolers squads and the Warriors. At least one will make the finals because the Blue Devils face the Schoolers Robey at 12:30 p.m. in the quarters.