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North Dakota State College of Science's Ivane Tensaie racking up points and D-I offers for the Wildcats

North Dakota State College of Science point guard Ivane Tensaie has double-digit Division I offers, including North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota.

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North Dakota State point guard Ivane Tensaie is averaging 22.4 points per game for the Wildcats women's basketball team.
Robert Wanek Jr. / Daily News

WAHPETON, N.D. — Ivane Tensaie had NCAA Division I dreams during her high school girls basketball career at Concordia Academy in Roseville, Minn., but offers from that level weren’t there as she completed her prep career with the Beacons.

The 5-foot-7 point guard decided to trust in her talent.

Tensaie, who had multiple Division II offers coming out of high school, instead committed to North Dakota State College of Science, a junior college program, to improve her profile. In her first college season, Tensaie is among the top scorers in the nation and has double-digit D-I offers.

“I think she was the perfect example of COVID and the transfer portal and how kids slipped through the cracks at times,” said NDSCS head women’s basketball coach Adam Jacobson. “She chose to bet on herself, came here and now it’s working out. … She had a chip on her shoulder and felt like she wasn’t getting the looks that she deserved and she wanted to play Division I basketball and thought she could.”

Both North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota have offered Tensaie, who also has Power Five conference offers, including Mississippi State.

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“I’m glad things went the way they did. I think I’ve learned a lot and I’ve developed a lot,” Tensaie said. “I was willing to do whatever to take a chance and see how it went.”

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North Dakota State College of Science point guard Ivane Tensaie has ganered double-digit offers from Division I women's basketball programs.
Robert Wanek Jr. / Daily News

Tensaie is averaging 22.4 points, 5.1 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 47% from the floor, 46% from 3-point range and 92% from the foul line. The Wildcats (19-1, 12-0 Mon-Dak) have won nine consecutive games and are in first place in the Mon-Dak Conference.

“I think a big part of it is the chemistry with my teammates is really great,” Tensaie said. “They know where I want to shoot, they know where I want to get to on the court. They help me out in that way and vice versa.”

Tensaie was a five-year starter at Concordia Academy and scored more than 2,200 points during her high school career. She said while Division I teams showed interest, she didn’t have any D-I offers coming out of high school. Jacobson said part of that was the backlog of players on Division I rosters due to players getting an extra year of eligibility due to COVID-19 and the transfer portal.

“It was a perfect combination of the transfer portal and perfect combination of COVID because I think teams didn’t have spots for her, necessarily, at the Division I level and all those kids coming back that teams could bring back,” said Jacobson, a former UND women’s basketball assistant.

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North Dakota State College of Science point guard Ivane Tensaie has multiple Division I offers, including North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota.
Robert Wanek Jr. / Daily News

Tensaie added the pandemic also cut short the traveling basketball season the summer before her senior year, not giving Division I programs as much time to evaluate her skill.

“I had interest from D-Is, but no one ever really pulled the trigger on me,” Tensaie said. “I know for some of them because of COVID they weren’t able to evaluate me like they wanted.”

Tensaie said she first connected with Jacobson via social media before Tensaie took an official visit to NDSCS where she liked what she saw. She committed to NDSCS in November of 2020 during her senior year at Concordia Academy.

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Jacobson, who had 12 years of experience as an assistant coach at four-year programs before taking over at NDSCS last season, was a key reason Tensaie chose the Wildcats.

“He believed in me like a lot,” Tensaie said. “He’s been helping me out a lot in the recruiting process. … I was kind of hoping that coming into this that it would only take one year. That was the hope, but I never expected it to go as well as it has right now. I’m grateful for the way things panned out.”

Jacboson said Tensaie has a D-I temperament that goes behind her gaudy numbers and efficient shooting ability.

“She is as steady a human being and player as I’ve ever coached,” Jacobson said. “Her head never drops and I think that steadiness really gives her that advantage. She doesn’t get nervous. … It’s just amazing to me how steady this kid is and the intangibles. Whoever does get this kid, the steal is going to be in her makeup as far as who she is and how she handles herself and the talent will come with it.”

Tensaie credits her family for helping in her athletic development. Her oldest brother Baeza Tensaie is a strength and conditioning coach and next older brother Robie Tensaie played college basketball. Her parents Tensaie Umeta and Wengel Legesse, who are from Ethiopia, also both played sports.

“I think it just comes from my parents. My parents are like that a lot, too,” Tensaie said of her steadiness on the court. “I’ve kind of always kept that mentality. It’s helped me be poised on the court and be a leader in that way.”

Ivane Tensaie added her high school coach Tiffany Stubbs and her skills trainer Terez VanPelt also played important roles in her development.

The Wildcats have nine games remaining in the regular season before the postseason starts in late February.

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“This group is super special. I loved getting to know everyone on this team and we mesh really well,” Tensaie said. “I’m really excited going into this last stretch and playoffs in the next month or so. I’m really excited for it.”

NDSCS already has one Division I recruit on the roster. Sophomore guard Ambah Kowcun signed with Wichita State. The 5-foot-10 Kowcun is averaging 18.8 points per game.

Tensaie said she plans to make her Division I decision after the season.

“My dream was always to play Division I. As a young kid, you just want to play at the highest level possible. I just didn’t really have those opportunities coming out of high school,” Tensaie said. “There is just a sense that it paid off. I took the risk and it paid off.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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