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Feeney a ‘hidden gem’ for Dickinson State women’s basketball team

The first time Dickinson State head women's basketball coach Mark Graupe saw MacKayla Feeney play, he thought she was a "nobody" of college basketball.However, this season Feeney has been somebody who has propelled DSU women's basketball to the b...

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Dickinson State junior guard MacKayla Feeney dribbles the basketball down the court in the Blue Hawks’ win against Oglala Lakota College on Oct. 23 at Scott Gym. Feeney is the team’s third-leading scorer and the team’s leader in minutes and 3-pointers made per game. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

The first time Dickinson State head women’s basketball coach Mark Graupe saw MacKayla Feeney play, he thought she was a “nobody” of college basketball.
However, this season Feeney has been somebody who has propelled DSU women’s basketball to the beginning of a promising season.
The Blue Hawks (5-1) begin a two-game homestand during the Milanovich Classic starting at 5 p.m. today against Rocky Mountain (Mont.) College and at 5 p.m. Saturday against Montana State-Northern in Scott Gymnasium.
Feeney, a junior shooting guard from Bismarck, leads the team and ranks 23rd in NAIA Division II with 2.8 3-pointers per game. She also is 48th in the nation with a 2.0 assists-to-turnover ratio. She also averages 11.5 points per game.
“I’ve just got to keep getting better in practice and bring the intensity,” Feeney said. “Obviously whatever you do in practice, it will carry over to the game.”
Graupe, who frequently watches games at local junior colleges and high schools looking for possible recruits, watched Bismarck State College two years ago and didn’t pick up on Feeney’s talent. In fact, Graupe said he “had no clue who she was.”
After all, Feeney came to BSC to be a soccer player and only joined the Mystics’ basketball roster to give the team depth.
But a year later, BSC’s head coach Jason Harris, who Graupe knew from his days as Lake Region College’s head coach, told Graupe he needed to take a harder look at Feeney because she “was lighting the world on fire.”

“I would never think I would be here,” Feeney said. “In that summer, I just kind of focused on basketball and fell in love with the game even more. It just kind of clicked for me.”
“Clicked” isn’t quite a good enough word. In her second year, Feeney set a school record with 88 made 3-pointers and was a junior college All-American.
“That’s unbelievable, to go there as a non-college player just for soccer then to a junior college All-American,” Graupe said. “I fell in love with her right from the get-go. She plays so hard, can shoot the 3 and has a motor that never quits. Even when she’s not hitting, I still love to watch her play because she brings such intensity and such hustle.”
But Graupe’s best-kept secret didn’t stay so secret for long. He remembers going to one of her games at BSC during which she hit seven 3s. But Minot State coaches were also there. University of Mary and Valley City State also showed heavy interest.
“And she just puts on a show, and I thought I was the only one who knew about her. My heart is racing,” Graupe said. “Here’s the girl that nobody knew about, my hidden gem, and I’m there watching all the time. … But I showed so much interest and built such a good relationship, that’s how we got her.”
DSU was close to home, which Feeney said was an important factor in her choice to become a Blue Hawk. But maybe more importantly, she fit right in with the rest of her team.
“We clicked right away. We have a really good bond,” DSU junior center Megan Klein said. “As a player, I would say she is a pest on defense. She is a headache, and that’s the best thing for us. And one of my biggest roles is to get her open because she can shoot.”
“Pest,” Klein said, is obviously an endearing and positive term for DSU - Feeney leads the Blue Hawks with 1.83 steals per game - as she is more of an annoyance for opponents.
“I just get up in their face and try to make them feel really uncomfortable and try to get the ball,” Feeney said.
Though Feeney lines up as a shooting guard on offense, she usually lines up against point guards on defense - or someone she can get in the face of and bother.
“She’s just relentless,” Graupe said with a smile. “That’s why we put somebody on her that she can just pester, whether that’s their point guard or whatever. I would call her a pest. She’s really going to bother you and get up tight on you to the point where you just want to get rid of the ball.”
Yet another category Feeney leads DSU in is minutes, with 28 a game. Graupe said he keeps her in for so long not only because of her motor, but for her chemistry with the rest of the team.
“The thing about Mac is that she doesn’t tire,” Graupe said. “I have all the confidence in the world in her. Even when she’s not hitting, I still keep her in because she brings so much to the table.”
And it’s not like Feeney takes many breaks, either. When she’s not shooting 3-pointers, she is either attacking the basket or sprinting in transition.
Nonetheless, her game heavily relies on 3-point shooting. In a 69-67 loss to No. 6-ranked NAIA Division I Montana State-Northern, the Northern Lights locked onto her and dedicated a defender to shadowing her. She was limited to 0 for 4 from the field and 0 of 2 from 3-point range.
But NCAA Division II Minot State didn’t quite have as much success containing Feeney when she made five 3-pointers in the first half of a 98-84 exhibition victory on Nov. 18.
“The difference is just having confidence in myself,” Feeney said. “What helps me most is my teammates. They make great passes. If I don’t have a good pass, it doesn’t click easily.”
But it’s not any sort of shooting streak that has given Feeney success, Graupe said. Feeney’s work ethic got her to this point - and to Graupe, she just needs to continue putting that time in to get even better.
“You go back just a year and a half ago, she was a nobody,” Graupe said. “But she’s put the time in and continues to put the time in. She’s going to continue to work.”

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