Of the five players named to the North Dakota Class A all-state girls basketball team last season, three were juniors.
As of last week, all three have committed to play their college careers at the University of North Dakota.
The verbal commitments from Mandan’s Megan Zander, West Fargo Sheyenne’s Maggie Manson and Bismarck Century’s Lilly Keplin give the Fighting Hawks three of the best 2019 in-state recruits.
All three play for the Dakota Drillers AAU team, which went to Chicago last weekend and went 5-1 at the Nike Tournament of Champions. The Drillers lost in a divisional championship game against a team from Alabama.
With players from around the state, the Drillers have only held one practice—a 45-minute shootaround in Jamestown.
Coach Jason Harris told the players just to share the ball.
“It’s an easy group to coach,” Harris said. “We’ve competed at the highest level they could, and we’ve done really well.”
Zander was the latest UND commit. The 5-foot-11 forward averaged 20 points, 12 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks per game as a junior and helped the Braves to a second-place state tournament finish.
“She’s pretty versatile,” Harris said. “She’s a double-double machine. Her wingspan is probably 6-foot-2. I’m sure in college she’ll run the three (position) because she can shoot the three. She creates matchup challenges with her size. When she rebounds, she times the ball and has a knack for seeing how it’s coming off the rim.”
Manson committed last September, becoming the first college recruit in Sheyenne’s short history. The 5-foot-8 guard averaged 15.4 points, 4.3 assists and hit more than 38 percent of her 3-pointers.
“I would argue that she’s the best shooter in the state,” Harris said. “I’m sure UND is looking at her to run the two or three. She can slide over and bring the ball up. She comes off the picks as well as anybody and has the ability to shoot 3 or 4 feet behind the line. She can stretch the defense.”
Keplin also committed in September. The 5-foot-7 Keplin scored 15.4 points and handed out 2.5 assists per game for the Patriots.
“For a girl her size, she’s as physically strong as anyone in the state,” Harris said. “She goes to the hole strong and rebounds bigger than her size. Two things she’s really improved on is her ability to shoot the three and defensively. She’s had to guard some really good players for us. Her defense will match up at the Division I level. She can defend a one, two or three and that’s a pretty good weapon to have on the defensive end.”
Although the three UND commits give the Drillers a trio of Division I commits already, the team’s top prospect remains uncommitted.
Lauren Ware, a 6-foot-4 center in the 2020 recruiting class, is receiving attention from many Power 5 programs.
“We have some really good shooters and Lauren inside attracts a ton of attention,” Harris said. “She shares it so well. They did stats on some of our games in Chicago, and we had 15 3s in one game and that’s not something done in AAU, where a lot of the game is going to the basket.
“We’re built on shooters and blessed with girls around Lauren. We don’t really have a girl we have to get 20 or 25 points out of every game.”