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Kevin Schnepf, Published January 23 2009

On the right track: Jacks’ Nagy prepares for Bison matchup

The South Dakota State men’s basketball program – saddled with four straight losing seasons – is finally moving in the right direction, according to its head coach.

“Just not as fast as I would like,” said Scott Nagy, whose Jackrabbits – sitting in seventh place of the 10-team Summit League – host league-leading North Dakota State tonight.

It was only five years ago when those roles were reversed.

Prior to 2004 when SDSU and NDSU made the move to Division I, Nagy built a 202-47 record during his first nine years at SDSU. That included four North Central Conference titles.

Since the move, the Jacks have a 41-95 record compared to NDSU’s 71-47 mark.

“Never have I said moving to Division I has been a bad thing,” Nagy said. “But it has been tough on the men’s basketball program. We’ve just had so many things happen that have been out of our control.”

Nagy lost as many as six standouts during the transition. Matt Cadwell, who led the Jacks in scoring one season, transferred to Division II Concordia-St. Paul. Andre Gilbert went to Kansas State, Steve Holdren to Illinois.

“Those are three fifth-year guys that we don’t have,” said Nagy, who as a result has only one scholarship senior on this year’s roster.

Just when Nagy thought his problems were over, 6-foot-10, 250-pound junior Anthony Davis has been sidelined all season with a mysterious illness.

“We are almost to the point we don’t have to talk about this stuff anymore,” Nagy said. “We are moving in the right direction.”

Case in point: SDSU’s Dec. 23 65-58 win at Iowa State. While NDSU had already posted wins over high majors like Wisconsin and Marquette, this ranked as SDSU’s biggest Division I win.

“I’ll tell you one thing during this whole transition … coach Nagy never forgot how to coach,” said Bison head coach Saul Phillips. “Anytime you go into a high major with a Summit League team and get a win, you establish yourself as a team that can beat anybody in the league.”

Case in point: Two nights after NDSU scraped by with a home win over Indiana Purdue-Indianapolis, the Jackrabbits rolled by IUPUI 83-63.

Last week, SDSU came within a couple of bounces of producing its first Summit League road sweep. Instead, the Jacks missed a putback at the buzzer in a 69-67 loss at Missouri-Kansas City and lost in overtime after Southern Utah drained a 30-footer at the buzzer at the end of regulation.

“It was frustrating and it was painful,” Nagy said. “But we played those games like we were going to win them. Those were forward steps for us.”

The next step is NDSU. The Bison’s foursome of fifth-year seniors Ben Woodside, Brett Winkelman, Mike Nelson and Lucas Moormann have a 5-1 Division I record against the Jacks.

“North Dakota is without question the most experienced team in the country,” said Nagy, who admits his squad will be one of the most experienced in the Summit League next year. “Nobody else is starting four fifth-year seniors. They are reaping the benefits of that.”

Something Nagy envisions happening at SDSU – just not as fast as he would like.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com