Although the college basketball season has ended, the University of South Dakota men’s basketball team is already looking forward to next year.
The Coyotes had a successful season, making it to the Great West Conference Tournament championship game for the second consecutive year and finished with a record of 18-15, marking head coach Dave Boots 23rd straight winning season.
With only two seniors graduating this year, the team will have a lot of experienced
players coming back next year.
From the current roster, the Coyotes should have 12 returning players, five being freshman this year.
“We’ll be a pretty young team,” freshman Trevor Gruis said. “We have seven core guys that are returning. It’ll be interesting to see how we grow compared to this season.”
Despite so many returning players, the program is always looking for ways to improve its roster and although recruiting is still open, Boots said the team has two high school seniors already committed for next season.
Boots said he is looking for players that have skills current members lack such as strong ball handling and court awareness.
“We’re still finishing up recruiting. It’s difficult because we have a core group of kids returning,” Boots said. “We’re looking for players that can fill in the holes of our roster and that will bring in a high level of talent.”
Nimrod Hilliard has already signed a letter of intent to play for the Coyotes and is the recruit with the biggest reputation coming into next season. Hilliard was recently named Mr. Basketball in the state of Wisconsin. He averaged more than 24 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.6 assists a game and earned All-Area, All-Conference and All-State Honorable mentions.
Gruis said the team is excited to add Hilliard to the roster.
“When you get a player like Hillard into your program, it’ll help a lot,” Gruis said. “He’ll be able to come in and make a contribution right away.”
Boots said Coyote fans should be excited to see Hilliard play.
“(Hilliard) is one of the better point guards we’ve had in the program while I’ve been here,” he said. “He’s quick and a great passer. Our fans will really enjoy watching him play — he plays with a lot of energy.”
Even though he is a Wisconsin native, Hilliard said USD felt like home.
“It felt right from the beginning,” Hilliard said. “I made a quick bond with the team and a connection with the coaches. I loved the campus — everything.”
Coming onto the team, Hilliard said his main goal is to help out the team in every way he can.
“A lot of my game can help out the team. I’ll be a leader on the floor as the point guard,” he said. “Getting everyone involved is important, but when we’re struggling I’ll know when it’s my time to step up and make plays.”
Another definite recruit for next season is Terrell Brown of Colorado Springs, Colo. In his senior year, Brown led his team to a second-place seeding at the state tournament and was selected to play in the Colorado Springs Metro All-Star game. Brown was ranked 170 in ESPN’s college basketball recruiting and was also being recruited by Northern Colorado, Stanford and University of Nevada-Las Vegas.
Boots said both Hilliard and Brown will bring a lot of skill and be great assets to the team next season.
Reach reporter Cassie Bartlett at Cassie.Bartlett@usd.edu.