Huron’s Justin Decker signed his National Letter of Intent to take his basketball talents to the University of South Dakota on Friday in Activities Director Terry Rotert’s office at Huron Arena. PHOTO BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN
HURON — A year ago Huron basketball standout Justin Decker caught the eye of the University of South Dakota coaching staff. On Friday, the 6-foot-6 senior center signed a National Letter of Intent to join the Coyotes in the fall to begin his collegiate career.
“I’ve been there a couple of times and I really like the coaching staff and a lot of the players,” Decker said of his decision to choose USD. “When I went down there for my visit, it was a nice place and I think it will be a good fit for me.”
Decker averaged 15.3 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season for the Tigers en route to being named to the second team of the Class AA All-State team.
Huron boys’ basketball coach Tim Buddenhagen is looking for big things out of Decker during his senior season as he prepares to make the move to the next level.
“He has progressed leaps and bounds from his freshman year,” Buddenhagen said of Decker. “This summer he’s put in a lot of work in the weight room and all fall has been shooting by himself in the gym, so he’s had a great work ethic and has a good head on his shoulders.”
The Coyotes are currently under the leadership of Joey James, who was named as interim head men’s basketball coach on Sept. 6, following the resignation of longtime coach Dave Boots. The coaching change at USD had little effect on Decker’s decision to head south.
“Really the only coach I ever talked to was Coach James,” Decker said. “I talked to Boots once or twice, but it didn’t really have that big of an effect on me.”
James caught a glimpse of Decker during a team camp the Tigers were attending last year in Vermillion. The rest is history, according to Buddenhagen.
“We played Pierre and we were fortunate to beat them there. Joey James was hanging out at the court and all of a sudden Justin had a scholarship offer about two days later,” Buddenhagen said. “Really I didn’t have a lot to do in the recruiting process. I talked to coach James a couple of times and we’ve emailed back and forth.
“He has told us what he wants Justin to work on. Justin earned the scholarship on his own at that team camp,” he said.
The Coyotes have a fairly young roster for the 2013-14 season, with only two seniors. The lone South Dakota player on the team is junior Jack Foley of Centerville.
Decker isn’t certain just yet what his role will be at USD or whether he will step into play right away or sit out a year.
“(Coach James) said it depends on how hard I work and where my skills are at,” Decker said of his status for his freshman season. “I hope to make a name for myself, do good down there and not have any bad seasons.”
While Buddenhagen has had a handful of players go on to play college basektball, Decker will be the first from a boys’ team to play in the Division I ranks.
“You as a coach don’t have much to do with that, because there’s natural God-given athletisism and ability,” Buddenhagen said of having one of his players being recruited to play college basketball. “They need to work hard to hone their skills and Justin has done that. We’ve had a lot of kids do that. Hitting the gym and really working hard is what it is going to take for him to play at the next level.”
The first and only other Division I recruit for Buddenhagen was Amy Burnett, who played at Wyoming and was a two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year.
Decker is looking forward to the challenge in front of him at the Division I level.
“It’s a good feeling and it’s going to be tough, that’s for sure,” he said.
Buddenhagen is confident Decker can make the successful transition if he puts his mind to it.
“His athletisism is going to carry him a long way, but he also knows he has to put in the work to groom his skills to get to the next level,” he said.
For the complete article see the 11-16-2013 issue.
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