I have my eyes on these Bison young guns in 2021-22.
North Dakota State’s track record of success can be boiled down into one word: sustainability. They have been able to consistently recruit high-caliber student-athletes year after year, to the point that few universities in the country have the level of sustainable success that NDSU currently has. When one great departs, another budding star is beginning to etch their name in Bison athletics history. For every Ben Woodside, there is a Taylor Braun. For every Easton Stick, there is a Trey Lance. You get the picture…
That sustainability is on display in this very issue. These are the student-athletes of the future here in Fargo. It’s just like that old saying goes, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” In the case of North Dakota State, it’s more than applicable.
Here are some student-athletes that I think are on the rise…
The reigning Summit League Sixth Man of the Year reminds me a lot of a former Bison great Dexter Werner. While the size may not be comparable per se, I feel Nelson’s role and game is very reminiscent of Werner’s. A player who could go back to the basket and muscle smaller players into the paint, but could also step out and knock down a jumper
when needed. Not to mention Werner’s ability as a rebounder and defender.
In many senses, Nelson carries a lot of those same qualities. While he may not be a true back-to-the-basket post, he possesses the size and skill to get to the rim and create his own shot at an efficient percentage. That is not even mentioning Nelson’s greatest asset, his length. Not only does this make him a sure-handed player on the glass (on both ends), but it makes him an elite-level defender. Nelson’s 25 blocks in 27 games played last year are evidence
Needless to say, the 6-foot-11 Nelson has the ability to be the Summit League’s best overall defender. In just his sophomore season, there has to be a lot of buzz circling around this kid.
While we have not seen (as of this writing) Morgan play in a Bison uniform yet, the hype is very much something to buy into. Last year’s Mr. Basketball in the state of Minnesota is one of the most highly-touted recruits the Bison have ever landed in men’s hoops.
At 6-foot-10, 235 pounds, Morgan has the size to complement NDSU’s other bigs in Rocky Kreuser and the aforementioned Nelson. The expectation is that Morgan will see some decent floor time in his true freshman season, creating a very daunting post lineup for the Bison. Obviously, as just a freshman, there is a lot to be learned about Morgan and his game. However, the size and tools he possesses make him a future star, without question.
Wisniewski has already established himself as a household name with Bison fans. Playing in all 10 games last spring, Wisniewski was a pivotal piece to Code Green. This included 22 total tackles and a nine-tackle game against Eastern Washington. So far in his sophomore campaign, he has continued to make an impact in NDSU’s stiff defense. Wisniewski has already accumulated 26 total tackles (18 of them solo) and a sack. This included an eight-tackle game in a huge home win over Missouri State on October 23.
To have a player like Wisniewski step in right away during his freshman season is massive for NDSU’s “reload” mentality. Just think about it for a second, have the Bison had a significant hole at linebacker since 2010? Even so, when was the last time that was an issue for Bison football? Players like Cole Wisniewski are why fans and pundits alike are never concerned about the Bison linebacking corp. They always find a way to succeed and players always seem to step up when called upon. Wisniewski is seeing the benefits of that now.
As soon as I saw what Kellyn March did in his first match at NDSU, I knew he had the potential to be something special. Beating seventh-ranked Devan Turner of Oregon State in his first collegiate match only set the table for what was to come for March. He was able to snag two pinfall victories, one tech fall and one major decision in his true freshman campaign.
Assuming the 133-pound class after Bison great Cam Sykora left March with big shoes to fill, March won two matches at last season’s Big 12 championships and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Team. If that’s a small sampling of things to come for March, you have to feel good about your 133-pounder if you’re Roger Kish.
We have not seen a ton of Behnke, being as she took a redshirt year two seasons ago. However, the sophomore played in 23 games last season, averaging eight minutes a game. What I like about Behnke’s game is her size and how efficient she can be as a scorer. At 6-foot-3, Behnke gives Jory Collins some size in a conference where that is most certainly an advantage.
You can look and see that she did only play eight minutes a game last season. What jumps out to me is that despite those limited minutes, she snared 58 total rebounds, which was sixth on the roster. On the offensive end, Behnke shot an efficient 56 percent from the field which illustrates that she knows what a smart shot looks like. You can’t really coach efficiency and coaches like Jory Collins are always looking for the best shot possible on each possession. Look for Behnke to take on a bigger role and maybe see some crunch-time minutes because of that.
The Dodge Center, Minn., native is one to watch on the track this upcoming season. Graham has been making an impact in the sprints since stepping foot on campus. As a true freshman, she placed sixth in the 400-meter dash at the Summit League Indoor Championships. Graham also ran on NDSU’s conference title 4×400-meter relay team that same season.
After the outdoor season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham came back looking even stronger. She improved her personal-best 400-meter time during the indoor season. Graham also placed fourth in the 400-meter at the conference championships. In her first collegiate outdoor season, she placed third in the 400-meter at the Summit League Outdoor Championships. Currently, Graham has the eighth-best 400-meter time in North Dakota State history.
That consistent improvement is most certainly a precursor to big successes for Nell Graham. That’s my slant.