More on the Blue Hawks in China

The Dickinson State basketball team poses with the Northwest A&F team, as well as numerous coaches and officials, including DSU President Dr. Richard McCallum.

Here’s a quick update on the Dickinson State men’s basketball team’s trip to China according to an e-mail from head coach Ty Orton.

On its second day, the team visited Tiananmen Square and ate “unique foods” in the alley food shops nearby. Needless to say, senior Nathan Lebsock and freshman Zach Edward didn’t enjoy their fish and brains combo meal.

Everywhere the players go, they have been asked to take numerous photos “This adds 15 to 20 minutes of extra time at every place we venture to. The people are impressed with the size of our guys and that they happen to play basketball,” Orton said.

On their third and fourth days, the Blue Hawks spent time at Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling and played in two basketball games. “The tour was fun and very informative for the players and coaches,” Orton said.

The teams first game was played in front of 4,000 students who Orton said took off a national holiday to stay and watch the game. Orton said he was told the university turned away more than 8,000 students who wanted to watch the game in the packed facility. “The game was a great success and everyone involved enjoyed the experience,” he said.

Sophomore Matt Lee was named the game’s Most Valuable Player after scoring 15 points and grabbing 10 rebounds as the Blue Hawks won 82-67.

The team played in game with mixed teams on their fourth day.

On the fifth day, yesterday, Orton said the team was having trouble finding an Internet connection or cellphone reception.

View more team photos on their Flickr page.

The Dickinson State men's basketball team poses in front of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

DSU basketball team makes it to China

Note: The Dickinson State men’s basketball team is in China until April 8. Throughout their trip, I’ll be receiving emails from head coach Ty Orton and writing updates on the blog about what they are doing.

The Dickinson State men’s basketball team has made its way to China. The team left Dickinson at 7 a.m. Thursday and ended the very long day in Beijing.

They took a bus from Dickinson to Fargo, flew from Fargo to Chicago, had a two-hour layover and a 45-minute runway delay before the 14-hour flight from Chicago to Beijing began.

“We were all in coach and we were packed in like sardines,” DSU head coach Ty Orton said in an email.

Orton said the flight was an interesting study in the behavior of each player and coach.

Assistant coach Mark Svagera, who stands about 6-foot-7 and according to Orton, “never sits still,” didn’t sleep the entire flight and was always moving.

According to Orton’s email, Carl Dynnesson, the Blue Hawks’ 6-foot-7, 320-pound center, and Destry Sterkel,  a 6-10, 340-pound center, told him “they hope China really likes them because they will not do the flight again.”

Senior center Derek Pauley and assistant coach Brandon Thomas, both 6-6, slept the entire way. Keep in mind, the team were flying coach.

As for freshman guard Brock Boos, who had never been on an airplane before Thursday?

“Brock was, and still is, shocked at everything that is going on,” Orton said.

Since arriving, Orton said the team has been continuously approached about the trip.

“The guys are also starting to realize that this is a trip of a lifetime,” he added. “The guys have been complimented numerous times about their behavior and how well they represent DSU. That is always great to hear.”

The team, who is 14 hours ahead of us in Dickinson, visits Tiananmen Square and the Olympic Village today and then takes a 2½-hour flight to Xi’an at 9 p.m.

The team is in China for 10 days representing the university on a friendship tour that includes two basketball games at one of DSU’s partner universities, Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University in Yangling, China. The team is scheduled to return April 8.

Williams’ TD: The best angle

Ron Rhoades and Joe Robinson to the rescue! Consolidated Community Channel 18 has been kind enough to provide The Dickinson Press with this clip of Derion Williams’ 58-yard, game-winning touchdown reception that helped Dickinson State defeat Concordia College 29-24 last Saturday.

I’d like to thank Consolidated for providing The Dickinson Press with this video, which is complete with the slow-motion replay and KDIX announcer Rod Kleinjan’s commentary.

San Jose Mercury-News article on Fleury

Mark Emmons, a reporter for the San Jose (Calif.) Mercury-News (one of the best newspapers in the country, in my opinion) wrote a great article on the recent trials of Dickinson State softball coach Kristen Fleury. Fleury, the team’s 24-year-old first-year-old head coach, is a San Jose-area native and, as most of you know, had to lead a group of players through the most trying time in Dickinson State athletic history when standouts Kyrstin Gemar, Ashley Neufeld and Afton Williamson died in a drowning accident earlier this month.


The ‘What if?’ scenario for Division II

So, I’ll be honest with you, this was a discussion I got into at a bar with a buddy the other day. When we began talking about Minot State’s move to NCAA Division II and why Dickinson State is really taking a “thanks but no thanks” approach to making the same move.

Then, the discussion turned to the Dakota Athletic Conference and how Minot State’s potential departure affects it. Then, we began talking about how Black Hills State and South Dakota Mines have expressed interest in making the jump to D-II. Then, oh yeah, that’s right, Valley City State is adding sports, which may be a thinly veiled nod-and-wink saying that they’d like to make the same exploration. Oh, and if Valley goes and Minot goes, what’s stopping Jamestown College from doing the same?

Where does that leave DSU if all that happens within the next decade? Well, up that old proverbial creek without a paddle.

So, we started talking about what DSU would do if all their conference rivals — teams they’ve faced for several years — decided that they were done with the NAIA and wanted to make the move to the supposed greener pastures of the NCAA’s Division II?

Well, my suggestion was, you follow suit. That is really NOT what DSU wants to do but there may come a time when it not only become necessary but imperative if it wants its athletics to survive financially.

Still, everything hinges on getting into a conference, right? Well like any two people sitting at a table in a bar, we solved a problem in minutes that would take administrators months to figure out.

Here’s the breakdown:
— Minot State and Sioux Falls are on their way out the door and want into the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, which hasn’t PUBLICLY decided if it wants to expand to 16 teams or not yet.

— Black Hills State, South Dakota Mines and Morningside are all supposedly looking into a move to D-II.

— Dickinson State, Valley City State and Jamestown College supposedly aren’t interested in a D-II move, at least publicly. But, if Minot, Hills and Mines all say they’re on the way out, then things could get interesting.

— Some NSIC schools (Minnesota State Moorhead, Minnesota-Crookston) are not competitive enough within their conference in some of the main revenue sports.

— Mayville State and Dakota State probably wouldn’t survive a jump to Division II, for both financial and competitive reasons. But they could have options to stay in the NAIA, especially Dakota State because of their location.

So, with that in mind, here’s the conference affiliations we formulated. Take into consideration, this is just two guys talking and there is about a million-to-1 shot that this would EVER go through and get approved by the Presidents, athletic directors and school officials who make those kids of decisions.

New Conference (10 teams)
Dickinson State
University of Mary
Minot State
Minnesota State Moorhead
Bemidji State
Black Hills State
South Dakota Mines
Jamestown College
Valley City State

Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (12 teams)
Northern State
Minnesota Duluth
Minnesota State Mankato
Concordia-St. Paul
St. Cloud State
Wayne State
Southwest Minnesota State
Upper Iowa
Winona State
Sioux Falls

Now, what this does is it creates not only geographic, but competitively similar conferences. Teams in the “New Conference” (NC) would be able to compete against teams in the NSIC in nonconference games only. Right now, the only comparison I can think of is the Big 12 to the Mountain West Conference. Mountain West teams could beat teams in the Big 12. But, the Big 12 is still thought of as a stronger conference, and for good reason. Still, there’s nothing stopping teams from the NC from running the table and being ranked as highly as any team in the NSIC or any other conference in Division II.

The NC is still going to have good teams that could be nationally competitive in many sports, but it would take some time for them to get to the level of the NSIC (at least as a whole), which has established itself as one of the premier conferences in D-II since the demise of the North Central Conference.

Putting former DAC teams with the likes of MSUM, Mary, Bemidji State and Crookston
not only pairs them with teams they’d be able to compete well with in nearly every sport immediately, it also makes sense travel-wise. The only real long-distance traveling would be from the Black Hills schools (BHSU and Mines) and the Northern Minnesota teams (Bemidji State, Minnesota-Crookston). Still, it’s not all that much further for them than some of their previous DAC or NSIC opponents would have been.

Competitively, we really liked what we came up with as far as the NC. Bemidji State and Mary have proved they can be competitive with some of the top teams in the NSIC’s revenue sports. MSUM and Crookston, not so much lately. However, they all really struggle trying to keep pace with some of the top teams and would probably welcome an opportunity at more winning in what could be, at the start at least, a weaker conference.

This scenario also helps the NSIC incorporate Sioux Falls and Morningside (schools in cities the conference is purportedly foaming at the mouth to get more of a chunk out of) and also keep traveling to somewhat of a minimum. The offshoots remain, of course, but the bulk of the schools are still together and the competitiveness would be just as good, if not better, than it would be as a 14- or 16-team conference.

Like I said before, it also sets up natural nonconference matchups for many teams, as well as be good for sports like cross country and track, where teams would have several options for meets within a decent proximity.

Another idea I had just moment ago was that, in the NC, 5 of the schools sponsor wrestling (8 of the 12 in the NSIC do). All but S.D. Mines sponsor softball, the lone baseball holdouts are MSUM, S.D. Mines and Black Hills State (and baseball amongst the rest is pretty good) and, after Valley City State adds track and cross country, only Minnesota-Crookston would be without it.

Ahh yes, what about Dakota State and Mayville State? There’s always the Great Plains Athletic Conference or Independent status. If the GPAC, one of the most powerful conferences in the NAIA, loses both of its powerhouses in Sioux Falls and Morningside, they’ll probably want new teams to take their places.

Again, all this is simply bar talk. Two guys just sitting around solving people’s problems for them.

Postscript … My friend brought up a great point that has been resonating with me since our conversation. … “Why build a $16 million stadium if you’re not going to go at least look into Division II?” I agree. Why not? What is it going to hurt?