Bittner blends drive with leadershipKylee Bittner looked like she had been in a fistfight. The Dickinson State senior’s right eye swelled and produced an almost comical black-and-blue shiner after she took an inadvertent elbow to it in practice.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Kylee Bittner looked like she had been in a fistfight.
The Dickinson State senior’s right eye swelled and produced an almost comical black-and-blue shiner after she took an inadvertent elbow to it in practice.
No big deal.
With six stitches above her eye, Bittner played two days later and scored 14 points as the Blue Hawks beat Valley City State.
“There’s no other senior I’d rather have than somebody with her personality and drive,” DSU head coach Andre Goldberg said.
Over four years, Bittner has grown into a standout for the Blue Hawk women’s basketball team.
But even more so, she’s a leader.
“As far as her leadership, I don’t think I’ve ever been around a player that has as much drive or has as much will to win as she does,” Goldberg said. “I compare her to how Nate Lebsock was last year for the guys team. Just how much she puts into it, how much she cares about our team. She wants to win not only for herself and for her teammates, but for the university.”
Bittner, a 5-foot-6 shooting guard, has been the focal point of DSU’s offense for two seasons. In her first two seasons with the Blue Hawks, she was a sparkplug off the bench.
Bittner averaged just 2 points per game as a freshman on a team that won the Dakota Athletic Conference and reached the Round of 16 in the NAIA Division II national tournament. She said the experiences gained that season have helped her throughout her career.
“From the bench to the starting five, the chemistry between us is chemistry I’ve never had before on a team,” Bittner said. “From that team, I learned a lot on and off the court and I’ve carried it throughout all four years.”
Being a scorer is nothing new to Bittner.
In high school, she was a Miss Basketball finalist after averaging 22 points, 6.5 rebounds, 6 assists and 4 steals per game for Hebron-Glen Ullin.
Those numbers were tempered at the college level, but Bittner has still become one of the Blue Hawks’ top offensive weapons in recent memory.
She ranks ninth on DSU’s all-time scorers list with 980 career points, making it possible for her to reach the 1,000-point milestone when the Blue Hawks host Mayville State at 4 p.m. today at Scott Gymnasium.
Bittner has led DSU in scoring each of the past two seasons and she saw an uptick in what the team asked of her as a sophomore.
“Before we’d get going, coach had talked to us about our roles and what are roles are going to be on the court and off the court,” Bittner said. “He expected me, and had a lot of confidence in me, to be our offensive threat. I believed in him and all the girls had confidence in me and I just fed off of it.”
DSU freshman Jordyn Bender will likely step into a bigger role next year when Bittner is gone. She said Bittner has been a good role model. Like Bittner, Bender was a Class B all-state player from a small school trying to prove she can compete at the college level.
“She’s always there, no matter if she’s doing bad or playing good, she’s always there trying to keep us up,” said Bender, who is from New England. “She’s a huge role model for me. I’ve always watched her, growing up, and then playing with her now, it’s helped me out and it’s helping a lot other people out too.”
The Blue Hawks have just three regular-season games remaining, two of them at home, and are on the bubble of qualifying for the NAIA Division II Independents tournament.
Though she doesn’t know exactly when her senior season will be over, Bittner knows the end is close. Nevertheless, she’s proud of what she has accomplished at DSU.
“If you take all four seasons, it’s not exactly the win-loss record that I’ve ever wanted,” Bittner said. “But to take the experiences, what I’ve learned on and off the court between the friendships, the chemistry between everybody — coaches, fans and the teammates — I honestly wouldn’t take anything else. It’s been a heck of an experience and I’ll never forget it.”