FARGO - North Dakota State head women’s basketball coach Jory Collins made no secret what he was looking for in his first recruiting class on Wednesday. The Bison signed three players, and not much was said about points, rebounds or assists in a national signing day press conference at Sanford Health Athletic Complex.
It was more about competitiveness, toughness and confidence.
“More swagger,” Collins said.
Asked if those qualities were a priority over recruiting standards like all-state players or top-tier AAU stars, Collins got right to the point. His team is 0-2 after losses to Northern Iowa (95-63 blowout) and Northern Illinois (74-68 in overtime). The Bison dropped a late lead in the home opener on Sunday to NIU.
“Not to say our current team lacks it, but our current team lacks it,” Collins said, when asked about recruits having toughness and competitiveness. “There it is, it’s out there. I wish we had more nastiness to our team, more grit internally to some of our girls. We’ve improved that tremendously but not at the level we want it to be to win close games or be in games against teams that are better than us at the moment.”
Collins signed 5-foot-10 guard Abigail Schulte from Maple Grove, Minn., 5-7 guard Kylie Strop from River Falls, Wis., and 5-7 junior college transfer Reneya Hopkins from Redlands Community College (Calif.). On Strop, Collins said Bison fans will catch on to her quickly.
"If you walk down a dark alley, you'll want Kylie walking beside you," Collins said. "She's a ball of fire. She'll rip your heart out on the court and won't be intimidated by anybody."
Collins said he also wanted to find three players with better ballhandling and defensive ability. He hopes to get that with Schulte, who led her team to a state soccer title and averaged 12.4 points and 4.7 rebounds as a junior for Maple Grove High School.
"And she's a terrific competitor," Collins said.
The NDSU men, as expected, stayed mostly in-state with its competitors and it's something head coach Dave Richman said fans probably didn't foresee when the Bison made the Division I move in 2004. NDSU signed guard Boden Skunberg from Jamestown, guard Grayson Haman from Fargo Davies and forward Grant Nelson from Devils Lake.
"I've been through the transition, I think early on the narrative early on was there wasn't going to be kids from the local area who would have success here," Richman said.
In addition, NDSU signed junior college guard Donald Carter III from Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.). Carter III grew up in Minneapolis before the family moved to Phoenix in high school. Carter played AAU basketball with current Bison player Odel Wilson IV. All four players had already given verbal commitments and in the case of Skunberg gave it over a year ago.
The 6-9 Nelson was a late addition to the Bison radar when Richman saw him play this summer.
"To be honest, four, five months ago, we had no clue who he was," he said. "We heard rumblings. And when he came to camp, it was a no-brainer right away. He's 6-9 and moves and handles it like a perimeter player. He has no idea how good he's going to be."
NDSU's signing day classes
Grant Nelson, 6-9, F, Devils Lake, N.D. Boden Skunberg, 6-4, G, Jamestown, N.D. Grayson Haman, 6-3, G, Fargo. Donald Carter III, 6-2, G, Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.).
Abigail Schulte, 5-10, G, Maple Grove, Minn. Kylie Strop, 5-7, G, River Falls, Wis. Reneya Hopkins, 5-7, G, Redlands Community College (Calif.).
Ali Hinze, 6-0, OH, Maple Grove, Minn. Taylor Quan, 5-6, libero, Brooklyn Park, Minn.
Emilee Buringa, 5-10, OF/C, St. Charles, Minn. Molly Gates, 5-7, SS/OF, Poulsbo, Wash. Ciara Jensen, 5-3, INF, Canyon Lake, Calif. Reanna Rudd, 5-11, C/1B, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Jessica Hanley, D/MF, Plymouth, Minn. Kaitlyn Hanson, D/MF, Lakeville, Minn. Ashleigh Heely, MF, Torrance, Calif. Kelsey Kallio, F/D/MF, Lino Lakes, Minn. Reagan Klose, F/MF/D, Bartlesville, Okla. Olivia Lovich, F/MF, Lino Lakes, Minn. Alicia Nead, MF, Highlands Ranch, Colo. Aliya Owens, MF, Omaha, Neb. Katrina Patscot, D/MF, Wales, Wis. Abby Wilkinson, GK, Littleton, Colo.
Holly Murphy, Lake Geneva, Wis. Catherine Monty, Stillwater, Minn. Leah Skaar, Gold Canyon, Ariz.