Here's the point: Griesel taking over guard position at NDSU

Bison junior getting accustomed to new spot on the floor

North Dakota State's Sam Griesel shoots over North Dakota's Tyree Ihenacho during last Saturday's Dakota Showcase at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Dave Eggen / Inertia


It wasn’t just another workout for Sam Griesel one day last summer at the North Dakota State basketball practice gym. Head coach Dave Richman came out onto a balcony overlooking the court with some words for the 2020-21 season.

The 6-foot-6 Griesel was coming off a successful sophomore season as one of the grittier players around the basket.

“He yelled at me and said, hey, you might be playing some point guard this year,” Griesel said.

Point guard? He dabbled a bit with it in high school in Gretna, Neb., although it was probably more because he had the ball all the time. But replacing Vinnie Shahid at the Bison point?


“My initial reaction was that I was excited,” Griesel said. “I feel like I can see the court pretty well and have always kind of been a good passer, so I was excited to learn the position.”

Shahid was dominant at the spot in the prior year and a half. Cameron Hunter, who played it as a backup at times, transferred to Central Missouri.

The Bison recruited Donald Carter III from Scottsdale Community College (Ariz.) and true freshmen Dezmond McKinney from Raytown, Mo., but they had yet to see a Division I court. Moreover, Carter III broke his leg in the spring and the prospects of being healthy by the start of the season were not promising.

Seven games into the season, the results are interesting, to say the least. Griesel has established himself as the starter at the point, but McKinney appears to be adjusting to the speed of the game. At the three-game Dakota Showcase in Sioux Falls, S.D., last weekend, he wasn’t afraid to take it to the hole.

That was Shahid’s forte and replacing him was never going to be easy, no matter how NDSU went about it. Shahid averaged 18.4 points per game, but his value was more than numbers. He was particularly gold late in games with his ability to handle the ball, score or get to the free-throw line.

He may be gone, but not forgotten, certainly with Griesel. The two talk all the time. They talked after the first game Thursday at the Dakota Showcase and the next morning before the Bison played South Dakota.

“Since the first day I met him he’s always given me confidence,” Griesel said. “I just like to get into his brain, he’s been a really good help for me.”

With Griesel, it’s a different look. He doesn’t possess the quickness of Shahid — or Carter III and McKinney for that matter. But at 6-6, he makes NDSU a lengthy defensive team.


“When you play him at the point,” Richman said, “you become pretty long. And we better be defensively pretty sound.”

And when McKinney comes into the game, Griesel shifts to another position.

“When we walk through plays and stuff, I try to know 1 through 5,” Griesel said of the positions on the floor. “I think that’s a good thing for a point guard anyways. I could be playing any of those positions so I have to know everything.”

What remains to be seen, and a decision Richman will have to make at some point, is when Carter III returns to full health. He warmed up for each of the three Dakota Showcase games, a sign that he’s getting close.

But he also is not being afforded the opportunity to get accustomed to Division I basketball like Shahid did in the first month of his junior season after transferring from Western Nebraska Community College. It was a noticeable adjustment and he struggled at times.

Griesel is an established junior who has been on two teams that reached the NCAA tournament. He’s just learning a new spot.

At the Showcase, he was solid the first two games with 20 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists against South Dakota State and 16 points against South Dakota. He had 14 points and 6 rebounds against North Dakota, including the game-winning free throw with 5.2 seconds left.

With the game on the line, like Shahid a year earlier, NDSU went to Griesel.


“I love the kid, he didn’t have it tonight for whatever reason (6 of 17 shooting) and we’ll work on that, but he was terrific in the other two games,” Richman said. “I absolutely love coaching this young man. We talk about the freshmen learning something new every game, he’s doing the same thing right now and it’s new to him.”

North Dakota State's Sam Griesel drives against North Dakota's Tyree Ihenacho during last Saturday's Dakota Showcase at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D. Dave Eggen / Inertia

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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