Craig Smith


VERMILLION, S.D. | South Dakota men’s basketball coach Craig Smith went beyond the borders of the United States to land one of the three players who signed national letters of intent on Wednesday.

Ben Fakira, a 6-foot-10 native of Sydney, Australia, will join the Coyotes for the start of the 2018-19 season.

While competing at Barker College, Fakira averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds per game while shooting 60 percent from the field. He was a selection to the Asia NBA Basketball Without Borders camp in 2016 and also participated in the FIBA Oceania tournament in 2015 where he claimed the gold medal as part of the U16 squad.

“Ben is a skilled big man who will bring a different dynamic to our team with his size and physicality in the post,” Smith said. “He is very well-rounded on the floor as he can score, rebound and defend at a high level. Because of his high basketball IQ, Ben becomes a difficult matchup with his ability to pass the ball and make plays for others. He is the total package and will make a tremendous impact on and off the floor for our team.”

The other signees were Sam Griesel, a 6-6 forward from Lincoln East High School and Tauriawn Knight, a 6-1 guard from Edmond, Oklahoma.

Griesel averaged 13.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game during his junior season, helping Lincoln East to an 18-7 record. An all-city performer, Griesel has scored 479 career points heading into his senior season.

“Sam is a long and athletic wing who will bring a lot of versatility to the floor,” Smith said. “His size and length, with his ability to score the ball all over the court, will make him a tough matchup for our opponents. He does a great job of going to the offensive glass and has a real nose for the ball. Sam really knows how to play and will do whatever it takes to win.”

An honorable mention all-state selection, Knight was named All-Central Oklahoma Athletic Conference after a junior season at Sante Fe High School in which he averaged 13.1 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

“Tauriawn is a talented guard who has the ability to play both spots in the backcourt,” Smith said. “He brings a high level of toughness and competitiveness to his team every time he steps on the floor. On the offensive end, he plays with great pace and really gets into the paint and breaks down the defense.

“We are thrilled these three young men are going to be Yotes. We were looking to add athleticism, skill and versatility and these three certainly provide that to our program.”


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