VERMILLION, S.D. | Nicole Seekamp burst onto the Summit League scene last season, making the all-newcomer team while earning honorable mention all-league honors.
Much more, of course, is expected from the 5-foot-10 University of South Dakota junior this season.
“Nicole was playing her best basketball down the stretch,” USD Coach Amy Williams said during the Summit League coaches media day teleconference Wednesday. “She had a tremendous offseason and is a lot stronger.”
Seekamp, a native of Remark, South Australia, averaged 14.9 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game last season and was at her best in the league tournament, helping the Coyotes reach the championship game by averaging 20.7 points and 5.3 rebounds.
Her 520 points were the seventh-most in a single season in program history. Seekamp hit double digits 27 times with a career high of 33 against Utah State in the first round of the WBI tournament.
Coaches have named Seekamp to the preseason first-team All-Summit League team and the Coyotes are picked to finish third behind South Dakota State and IUPUI.
South Dakota, which finished 19-16 overall and 10-6 in the Summit League, returns six players from last year’s regular rotation.
“Last season was a great experience for our six returnees and I think that experience will help,” Williams said. “But I’ve learned just how good the league is in my first year. We are extremely young and trying to work toward consistency.”
With 11 freshmen, redshirt freshmen or sophomores listed on the 15-player roster, Williams said it creates a “lot of uncertainty.”
Polly Harrington, the lone senior, is a second team preseason all-league selection. The 5-11 Harrington averaged 11.1 points and 5.8 rebounds last season.
Of the young players, Williams said sophomore Tia Hemiller had a tremendous off-season and will likely start at point guard. Bridget Arens, a 6-foot forward from Crofton, Neb., is “probably the one freshman that’s most ready to contribute.”
South Dakota State is the overwhelming choice to win the league title, garnering 319 points and 27 first-place votes. IUPUI got the other three first-place votes.
The Summit League, meanwhile, has sent an all-time high four teams to the men’s postseason in each of the last two seasons.
North Dakota State, the preseason pick to win the 2013-14 title, returns 96 percent of its scoring, including all five starters and 11 of 12 letterwinners from a team that finished third last season and was runner-up in the league tournament.
Denver, a Summit newcomer, was picked second by the coaches and features Chris Udofia, projected by some as the player of the year. The 6-6 senior is bidding to become the first player to earn first-team all-league selections in three different leagues in a three-year span. He was first team All-Sun Belt Conference as a sophomore and in the WAC last season.
Taylor Braun of North Dakota State, by the way, is the coaches pick as player of the year.
South Dakota State’s Jordan Dykstra, a 6-8 senior from Rock Valley, Iowa, and a first team preseason all-league pick, begins the year second among active Division I players with a .464 career 3-point percentage, just .001 behind Creighton All-American Doug McDermott.
Trevor Gruis, a 6-10 senior from the University of South Dakota, made the preseason all-league second team. The Ellsworth, Minn., product averaged 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds last season.
South Dakota is picked seventh out of eight teams in the coaches preseason poll.
“We’re excited about the year, it’s an excellent league with great players and coaches and we can’t wait to get started,” USD interim head coach Joey James said. “We’re trying to get better day by day and finish in the top half of the league this year.”
James, a former Coyote player and an assistant coach the past 10 seasons, was named interim coach after Dave Boots resigned last month. Boots guided the program for the past 25 seasons.
“The players have been very receptive (to the coaching change),” James said. “We have to get better defensively from a rebounding standpoint.”
The Coyotes return four starters – Gruis, junior Brandon Bos and sophomores Casey Kasperbauer and Tyler Flack – and will be bolstered by transfers Trey Norris (North Texas) and Adam Thoseby (Utah State).
Norris is expected to compete for the starting point guard spot while Thoseby is a deadly outside shooter.
Tyler Larson, a redshirt freshman guard, was a highly touted transfer from Casper College who probably would have started last season but suffered a season-ending knee injury just prior to the start of the season.