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Tiger women add seven names to 2011-12 recruiting class

Jason Christensen

MITCHELL, S.D. – After dealing with a small roster in his first year as the Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball head coach, Jason Christensen has nearly doubled his numbers for his second year at the helm. Christensen signed five players during the season, and this week he announced seven more recruits to add to the Tigers’ 2011-12 roster.

Cecile Burke, Steph DeWaard, Skyler Heyden, Taylor Kuhn, Mackenzie Van Laecken, Lindsey Saftner and Katelyn Woodrum have all committed to play college basketball at Dakota Wesleyan starting next season. Four of Christensen’s latest recruits are from Mitchell and the surrounding area.

“When taking this job, one of our goals as a coaching staff was to try and give local kids the opportunity to compete at Dakota Wesleyan,” Christensen said.

Burke comes to Dakota Wesleyan from Corsica, S.D., where she earned four varsity letters on the basketball team. The 5-foot-8 guard scored 803 career points and pulled down 289 rebounds to go along with 114 assists and 129 steals. She earned all-conference honors her sophomore through senior seasons and helped Corsica/Stickney to a fifth-place finish at the Class B state tournament in its first season of existence.

DeWaard, a 5-6 forward, played with Burke in the 2010-11 season after five years on the Stickney/Mount Vernon basketball team. The Stickney, S.D., native lettered for five years and helped Stickney/Mount Vernon to a fifth-place finish at the Class A state tournament in 2010 and Corsica/Stickney to a fifth-place finish at the Class B tournament in 2011. DeWaard is also a member of the National Honor Society.

Heyden comes to the Tigers from Burke, S.D., after earning five varsity letters for the South Central basketball team. She scored 721 career points and had 245 rebounds, 213 steals and 145 assists. The 5-6 guard earned all-conference honors three seasons and was named the Southern Plains Conference MVP. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and was named Burke High School’s Outstanding Woman Athlete.

Kuhn, a 5-4 guard from Custer, S.D., lettered for three seasons at Custer High School. She averaged seven points per game and shot 69 percent from the free-throw line as a senior. She earned all-conference and Academic All-State honors as a senior and was a part of the Distinguished Honor Roll.

Van Laecken is a Mitchell native who played basketball for six years at Mitchell Christian High School. The 5-7 guard averaged 12.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per game during her senior season when she helped the Eagles make the Class B state tournament for the first time since they won the state title in 2006. Van Laecken, who earned all-conference accolades her sophomore through senior seasons and was a South Dakota Miss Basketball finalist in 2011, finished her six-year career with 1,077 points.

Saftner joins DWU from Sturgis Brown High School in Sturgis, S.D. The 5-8 guard averaged eight points, four assists and three rebounds per game as a senior. Woodrum played four years of varsity basketball at Sioux County High School in Harrison, Neb. The 5-4 guard averaged 15.6 points, 7.8 rebounds and 5.2 steals per game as a senior.

These latest seven recruits cap off Christensen’s recruiting efforts for 2011-12 at 12 new players. They join Celeste Beck (G, Sioux Falls Roosevelt), Abbey Fujan (F, Sioux Falls Roosevelt), Lexy Hofer (G, West Central), Katie Johnson (G, Mead, Neb.) and Shelby Johnson (G, Yutan, Neb.). Because of the size of his recruiting class, the Tigers – who went 6-25 overall and 2-16 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference in 2010-11 – will also play a junior varsity schedule this season.

“With our numbers, we’ll be able to provide our kids the opportunity to compete and improve their basketball knowledge at the collegiate level,” Christensen said. “We are excited to welcome these individuals to the Tiger basketball family.”

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Last updated: 7/11/11