Products of Nebraska high schools likely will have a big say in who represents the Summit League in March’s NCAA tournament.
There are 13 Nebraskans on the Summit’s top five teams, as judged by coaches, sports information directors and media at Monday’s media day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Top-ranked North Dakota State has two, No. 2 South Dakota four, No. 4 UNO has five and South Dakota State has two.
It’s no surprise the Mavericks lead the league in Nebraskans.Coach Derrin Hansen recruits players in his backyard while also drawing from the Kansas City area.
“We are always going to look local first,” Hansen said. “That being said, you can’t take everybody. Recruiting will always be about needs and not wants. We are fortunate to have two or three major metropolitan areas that we have also been able to draw from.”
UNO landed two players — guard JT Gibson (Brooklyn Park, Minn.) and forward Matt Pile (Wichita, Kan.) on the preseason All-Summit second-team, but Hansen expects two Nebraskans will play major roles this year.
Papillion-La Vista product Ayo Akinwole, a 6-foot-0 combo guard, enters his junior season after averaging five points and 1.7 assists last year. Hansen likes his versatility.
“He was great for us last year as a sophomore,” Hansen said. “He can play dual rolls. … I think he and KJ (Robinson) were vital for us. They have flexibility, versatility ... they can play both guard positions and late in games when you are trying to manage the game, have two ballhandlers on the floor being able to make decisions and maybe make free throws down the stretch. Those guys are great at that.”
Hansen also has Omaha Burke graduate Wanjang Tut, a 6-8 sophomore forward, to provide scoring punch.
“He had a really good Summit League tournament and had a pretty good overall year for us and has made tremendous strides,” Hansen said.
UNO’s other Nebraskans are walk-ons: Kyle Luedtke, a 6-5 redshirt freshman guard out of Omaha Creighton Prep; Hayden Miller, a 6-1 sophomore guard out of Nebraska City Lourdes; and Grant Frickenstein, a 6-3 freshman guard from Fremont Bergan.
League favorite North Dakota State returns seven of its eight leading scorers from last year’s tournament championship team — two are from Nebraska and two have Nebraska ties. Senior guard Jared Samuelson, a Gretna product, averaged 7.1 points a year ago, and 6-6 Sam Griesel, out of Lincoln East, averaged 6.1 points and 3.8 rebounds as a true freshman.
Senior Vinnie Shahid, a guard out of Minneapolis, spent two seasons at Western Nebraska Community College and is a preseason first-team all-league selection after leading the team in scoring (13.1) and assists (2.6). Cameron Hunter, a junior guard out of Olathe East in Kansas, is the son of Cedric Hunter, the former Omaha South star and starting point guard for Kansas’ 1986 Final Four team.
It’s no surprise that South Dakota, located in Vermillion just across Nebraska’s border, would draw Nebraskans. Two seniors with Nebraska roots earned preseason all-league recognition.
Triston Simpson, a guard out of Lincoln North Star, was a first-team pick after averaging 14 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 2018-19.
Tyler Hagedorn, a 6-10 center out of Norfolk, was a second-team pick despite missing last season due to injury.
“We were expecting him to play and be one of the best big men in the league last year,” South Dakota coach Todd Lee said. “I think this year he has a chance to be as good as any post player or player in the league.”
South Dakota also has Kanon Koster, a transfer from UNK and a former Kearney High star, and Brady Heiman, a 6-11 transfer from Nebraska out of Platteview. Koster will redshirt this season. The Coyotes are still determining if Heiman, who has been granted a waiver, will play or sit out this year.
Two Nebraskans are freshmen for SDSU, which has to replace three-time Summit player of the year Mike Daum from Kimball.
Baylor Scheierman, a 6-6 guard out of Aurora, will battle for playing time at point and likely provide depth off the bench to start the season. Winnebago graduate David Wingett, a 6-7 guard/forward, transferred from Memphis after using a medical redshirt last season. It isn’t known if Wingett will be eligible this year.
“It’s still a work in process with David,” first-year South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson said. “We are still in the process of filing a waiver. … We are certainly hopeful but you never know.
“David is going to be a great Jackrabbit. Whenever that will be, time will tell.”
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2019-20 Preseason Summit League Player of the Year
Stanley Umude – South Dakota
Preseason All-Summit League First Team
Emmanuel Nzekwesi, Oral Roberts, Sr., F (14.8 ppg/8.5 rpg/1.2 apg)
Kevin Obanor, Oral Roberts, So., F (14.4 ppg/7.2 rpg/0.5 apg)
Vinnie Shahid, North Dakota State, Sr., G (13.1 ppg/3.0 rpg/2.6 apg)
Triston Simpson, South Dakota, Sr., G (14.0 ppg/3.7 rpg/3.6 apg)
Stanley Umude, South Dakota, Jr., F (14.4 ppg/5.5 rpg/1.4 apg)*
Kobe Webster, Western Illinois, Jr., G (17.0 ppg/4.4 rpg/3.1 apg)
Preseason All-Summit League Second Team
Tyler Hagedorn, South Dakota, Sr., F (13.0 ppg/5.9 rpg/1.1 apg)#
JT Gibson, Omaha, Sr., G (12.9 ppg/2.8 rpg/2.1 apg)
Matt Holba, Purdue Fort Wayne, Sr., F (11.7 ppg/4.2 rpg/1.2 apg)
Matt Pile, UNO, Jr., F (11.2 ppg/7.9 rpg/1.2 apg)
Tyson Ward, North Dakota State, Sr., F (12.4 ppg/6.2 rpg/2.3 apg)
*Preseason Player of the Year automatically earns a spot on first team
#Hagedorn's stats are from 2017-18 season
Preseason Poll (1st Place Votes) Points
1. North Dakota State (23) 526
2. South Dakota (6) 457
3. Oral Roberts (3) 404
4. UNO 369
5. South Dakota State (2) 300
6. Purdue Fort Wayne 224
7. Western Illinois 188
8. North Dakota 164
9. Denver 113