'I told you so'; Moni and Nhial to reignite Sheyenne connection at Northern State

Michael Nhial committed to play for the Wolves on Wednesday, where he'll join high school teammate Jacksen Moni.

West Fargo Sheyenne's Michael Nhial slams a dunk at the Packers gym at West Fargo High on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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WEST FARGO — On January 19, 2021, Sheyenne's Michael Nhial knew his college prospects were lifted to new heights.

Jacksen Moni remembers the build up vividly.

"In pregame warmups, we were dunking before the refs came out," he said. "Michael wasn't dunking. I asked him, 'Michael, why aren't you dunk?'"

"He goes, 'I'm saving it for the game.'"

Those words turned out to be a spoiler, not a prediction. Nhial unleashed a one-handed jam in the second half against Shanley that went viral on social media and made its way on the radar of college basketball programs.


"I don't really remember the dunk," Nhial said. "I remember what happened after. All my twitter following went up, seeing it on TV that night. It was crazy."

It seemed like a precursor of things to come. Nhial was almost guaranteed to become a starter as a senior, where he could show more scoring skill and realize his dream of playing at the next level.

Moni shared the same belief.

"When most colleges see that, I mean who wouldn’t want to get after him?" Moni asked.

Nhial did start, and he did show more scoring skill. Yet, the right college offer was still waiting. Where some would panic, Nhial didn't blink.

"I kept telling myself to be patient and I knew it would come," he said. "I just had confidence in myself, I knew I’d get to where I wanted to be."

What he didn't know was Moni was going to bat for him.

Moni took the video of the dunk against Shanley to the office of Saul Phillips, his head coach at Northern State.


"'We need him,'" is what Moni remembers Phillips reaction being to the jam.

"I told him, 'I can get him here.'"

Phillips had more than enough reason to trust Moni. The Sheyenne alum started all 32 games of his freshman campaign, averaged more than 30 minutes a game, and turned 14.2 points per game.

Northern State's Jacksen Moni shoots against Minnesota State Moorhead on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
David Samson/Forum Communications Co.

Now Moni could give the program an assist on the recruiting trail. And he knew exactly what to do.

"A few weeks before I got the offer, we were on the phone and he said, 'I think Saul is going to offer you,'” Nhial said. "A couple weeks pass, yep, there it is."

Once the offer was made, just like Nhial had throughout his recruiting process, Moni was cool and collected in his approach.

"At first he said, 'If you come here,'" Nhial remembered. "Then he said, “'No, it’s when you come here.'"

Nhial, a 21.1 point per game scorer in his senior season for the Mustangs, committed to Northern State on his visit.


He had to let Moni know.

"Me and Saul were on the phone, he put his phone down, we called Jacksen," Nhial said. "I go, 'I bet you he doesn't even have a reaction.'"

"Jacksen picks up the phone, he doesn't even have a reaction."

"When Saul, it's usually pretty serious," Moni remembered. "Mike said that he committed and it was just kind of like another, 'I told you so.'"

It was an extension of an "I told you so" moment that began with the dunk on January 19, 2021.

Now, Moni and Nhial have the chance to keep having those moments in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

"You usually don't see that, two teammates in high school team up together on a college team," Moni said. "Just knowing that he’s coming to Northern is going to make the experience better for me."

"He’s like a brother to me, so obviously I’m going to take a chance to play with him whenever I can," Nhial said.

Zach Staton joined WDAY as a sports reporter in 2018. He grew up in Salem, Virginia loving any sport he could play or watch. Staton graduated from Bridgewater College with a degree in Communication Studies before getting his Master's in Broadcast and Digital Journalism with a Sports Communication Emphasis from Syracuse University.
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