VERMILLION — Ryan Larsen’s passport has certainly gotten a workout.
Three trips to and from Australia will do that.
His adventures have paid off, though, as the University of South Dakota assistant women’s basketball coach has played a direct role in recruiting one, and now two, sought-after prospects from that country.
“It’s been a good thing for us,” Larsen said Wednesday of USD’s newest signee, Maddy White, a 5-foot-11 forward from Warnnambool, Australia.
Larsen, a fifth-year assistant for the Coyotes, first found success in that country with Nicole Seekamp, a second-year player who earned Summit League Tournament MVP honors last season.
Those same connections eventually led Larsen to White, who like Seekamp played on Australia’s U19 national team, known as the Gems, at last year’s World Qualifying Championships. She also won a gold medal at the inaugural Australian U18 3-on-3 Championships last July.
“It’s heavily recruited, that’s for sure, but there’s a reason why,” Larsen said. “They’re all good players, and their style of training is a lot different than ours over here.”
In comparing Australian basketball to AAU ball in the United States, there is a big difference, Larsen said. Where most AAU summer teams will practice one time and then load themselves up on games, Australian teams have a ratio of more practices to games.
“It isn’t fun for the athlete, but that’s why their skills are more developed than ours,” he said.
In White, an 18-year-old with four years of college eligibility in front of her, the Coyotes are getting a versatile post player can play a variety of positions, according to USD head coach Amy Williams.
“Where I thought one of the greatest things about Nicole is her versatility; she played at the one, two and three spots, Maddy is also the same type,” Williams said. “She’ll probably play minutes at a wing or at the four. She brings good size and high basketball IQ.”
White, who was injured in a car accident last fall but is back on the court, joins other players Bridget Arens (Crofton, Neb.) and Jaylah Jackson (Olathe, Kan.) as members of USD’s 2013 recruiting class.
Before White comes to USD in the fall, the program has been trying to get her in contact with former Coyote Amber Hegge (another Crofton native), who is playing professionally in Australia.
So, is there a pipeline from the Land Down Under to Vermillion?
“We hope so,” Williams said, chuckling. “We feel like we’ve gotten ourselves into a great situation down there. We found a hotbed.”
There’s already a joke circulating through the team that with White coming aboard, Seekamp won’t be in a hurry to shed her Australian accent.
“It’s really going to be good for Maddy too, having that comfort level,” Williams said. “Nicole’s gone through that transition, she knows about our country and the states.”
And likewise, Larsen is quite familiar with Australia. And yes, he is already making plans to go back next year.
The fruits of his visits have paid off for the Coyotes, Williams said.
“We know there’s not going to be a whole lot of Nicoles out there in the world, so we’re really excited for what Maddy can bring,” she said. “It’s certainly a good resource for us.”
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