Take a quick glance at South Dakota State’s roster. It’s littered with players from the plains -- a few from Wisconsin here and a few from South Dakota and Iowa there.
Nothing out of the ordinary.
Then there’s David Jenkins Jr., who hails from Tacoma, Washington. His journey to Brookings, South Dakota, detoured through Sunrise Christian Academy in Bel Aire, Kansas, so at least he was able to acclimate himself to the weather in the plains.
Or, maybe not.
“First off, it’s cold and I’m not used to that,” said Jenkins, a 6-foot-2 sophomore guard. “But at the same time, it’s a good thing for me. If I had stayed close to home, there’s a lot of distractions and a lot of things to get me in trouble.”
Those options are scaled way back in eastern South Dakota.
“Coming to South Dakota,” Jenkins said, “there’s just enough things for me to do to where I can’t get myself into trouble. But it also forces me to stay on my grind.”
And he’s done that seamlessly in two seasons with the Jackrabbits.
As a freshman last season, Jenkins was the eighth-highest scoring freshman in the country, and he surpassed the 1,000-point plateau and currently sits at 1,043 points ahead of Thursday’s game against Omaha.
Not too shabby, considering he plays alongside one of the better scorers in NCAA history -- Mike Daum.
“We have no egos on our team,” Jenkins said. “We uplift each other, and we have positive vibes all the time.”
When it came to choosing a college destination, Jenkins admits Daum was a deciding factor.
“Mike was a big part of it,” Jenkins said. “Him and our coach. T.J. Otzelberger. Having T.J. and having Mike is one of the best things anyone could have. It’s just a great combination”
On tap this week
Thursday, Feb. 14
South Dakota State at Omaha
Oral Roberts at North Dakota State
Purdue Fort Wayne at Denver
Saturday, Feb. 16
South Dakota at Western Illinois
Purdue Fort Wayne at Omaha
Oral Roberts at North Dakota
South Dakota State at North Dakota State
Game of the week: South Dakota State at Omaha, 7 p.m. Thursday (ESPN+)
This is Omaha’s chance (and really the rest of the league’s opportunity to keep South Dakota State close to the pack). South Dakota State is roaring toward the finish line of the regular season -- no surprise there. The Jackrabbits haven’t lost since Jan. 3, they’re clearly in a class all their own right now in the Summit League. But if anyone is going to knock South Dakota State down a peg (albeit, probably temporarily), it could be Omaha.
The Mavericks get South Dakota State coming to Baxter Arena, where Omaha has been a force on the offensive end. The Mavericks received only five points from Zach Jackson when the two teams met in January for the first matchup, an 83-73 win for South Dakota State. That’s not likely to happen again. But the Mavericks will still have to find a way to slow down Mike Daum. Good luck.
1. South Dakota State (20-6, 10-1): Inside state lines, the Jackrabbits have demolished opponents, one right after another. They’ve been good on the road, too, but to a lesser degree. South Dakota State has won its last four conference games away from Frost Arena, but the last three have only been by an average margin of 6.7 points per game.
2. Omaha (14-9, 8-2): Taking care of the basketball is always a solid quality to have in a basketball team, and the Mavericks have excelled at it this season. Omaha turns the ball over only 10.4 times a game, and that’s the best in the conference and 17th in the country. Combine that with 80.8 points a game, and that will play well in any setting.
3. Purdue Fort Wayne (16-10, 8-3): The Mastodons have erased the memory of a three-game conference losing streak in January with a current run of four straight wins, including a 79-64 rout of Western Illinois last week. Purdue Fort Wayne won three of those four games by an average of 16 points, and then there was a one-point victory at Oral Roberts, thanks to Matt Holba’s 3-pointer with only four seconds remaining. Against Western Illinois, Jarred Godfrey and Marcus DeBerry combined for 30 points off the bench. If that continues, watch out for the Mastodons down the stretch.
4. North Dakota State (13-12, 7-4): Junior transfer guard Vinnie Shahid has averaged 21.5 points per game in his last four contests, and coincidentally enough those four games have all been victories for the Bison. North Dakota State is 4-1 at the Scheels Center this season, and the Bison close out the regular season with three of five in Fargo.
5. Oral Roberts (10-17, 6-6): Minus Emmanuel Nzekwesi on Sunday at South Dakota, the Golden Eagles didn’t miss a beat, thanks to Kevin Obanor. The freshman forward is making a name for himself in the Summit League with 22.4 points per game in his last seven outings. He’s also hauled in 9.1 rebounds over that span, and numbers like those start to put him on the verge on Mike Daum territory. There’s a widening gap between the Golden Eagles and teams on both sides of them in the standings, so ORU is more than content to rest Nzekwesi and hope he and Obanor can be a formidable duo come league tournament time.
6. Western Illinois (8-16, 3-8): Well, the Leathernecks lost their third straight game with a loss to Purdue Fort Wayne on Feb. 7. But at least Brandon Gilbeck recorded a triple-double, the league’s first since 2007. And it was the first triple-double in the country that used a combination of points (12), rebounds (16) and blocks (10) this season.
7. South Dakota (9-15, 3-8): It’s been a horrid season in Vermillion ever since Todd Lee got tossed from a game at Oral Roberts on Jan. 17. Since then, the Coyotes have picked up one win in a seven-game stretch. South Dakota lost in overtime against Omaha in Sioux Falls last week, but the Coyotes followed that up with a blowout loss (86-72) at home against ORU Sunday.
8. North Dakota (9-16, 3-9): In the same boat as South Dakota, the Fighting Hawks have lost six of seven since Jan. 16. At this point, it could be between North Dakota and Denver for the eighth spot in the standings -- and the final spot in the Summit League Tournament.
9. Denver (7-18, 2-9): Two blowout wins on Jan. 16 and Jan. 20 signaled a turnaround in the Mile High City. But since then, not so much. The Pioneers have lost four straight and one have been particularly close. This team brought in some stopgap talent through transfers in the offseason, and it’s pretty clear that those moves haven’t paid off at all.