Henningsgard leads Blue Hawks, third in nation, in assists

Taylor Henningsgard is finally getting used to adjusting.In only her third season of college basketball, Dickinson State is the third school she has attended. She's also learned to adapt her style of play to less scoring and more passing.Yet, she...

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Dickinson State junior point guard Taylor Henningsgard, center, brings the basketball down the court in the Blue Hawks’ 86-45 win over Trinity Bible College on Dec. 5 at Scott Gymnasium. Henningsgard is third in NAIA Division II with 5.6 assists per game. (Press Photo by Colton Pool)

Taylor Henningsgard is finally getting used to adjusting.
In only her third season of college basketball, Dickinson State is the third school she has attended. She’s also learned to adapt her style of play to less scoring and more passing.
Yet, she appears to have found a home.
Henningsgard, who is third in NAIA Division II with 5.6 assists per game, will look to facilitate the Blue Hawks women (15-4, 2-0 North Star Athletic Association) when they take on Dakota State at 4 p.m. today at Scott Gymnasium.
“Considering the circumstances and fitting into a new school and program, adjusting to the team chemistry-wise and stuff like that,” Henningsgard said, “I think it’s been a good year. I think I’ve learned to accept a role on the team as a distributor and running the show.”
The junior point guard from Buxton is fifth in the nation with 106 total assists and 24th with a 2.12 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Henningsgard said she is like the quarterback of the basketball team - which may be true for more reasons than one. Henningsgard’s passes sometimes come so accurately and suddenly, it’s taken a little while for her teammates to catch up.
“Taylor is by far the best passer I’ve ever played with,” said DSU forward Janniqua Thomas, who is also her roommate. “When I was looking to play here and (DSU head coach Mark Graupe) was recruiting Taylor, coach would tell me all about her passing. And I’m like, ‘Oh, she can’t be better than what I had at Dawson (Community College) because I had a passer and scorer as a point guard at Dawson.’
“Then I got to play with (Henningsgard), and she’s making all these sick passes, and I’m, like, ‘OK, yeah, she’s better.’ So it’s fun to get those sick passes and also see her do her own thing as well.”

Thomas said, compared to herself, Henningsgard is much more reserved.
But that sure doesn’t seem to be the case when Henningsgard runs DSU’s offense on the court.
“I’ve learned to respect and I love everything about her,” Thomas said. “She definitely meshes well with the team, and everybody loves what she does for us. There’s a lot of things that she brings that some people don’t bring and don’t have.”
To Henningsgard, being a point guard is nothing new. Even when she was in fifth grade, she said she wanted to try to get everyone on her team to score. In high school, she was given the responsibility to call her own plays, which she feels gets her more involved in the game and more focused.
“I’ve always been the type of point guard to give assists and enjoy assists,” Henningsgard said. “I’m a pass-first point guard, even though I will shoot. I just like to get people involved. That’s always something I’ve done.”
To Graupe, that’s something his team needed very badly.
When Hailee Farstveet, who led DSU with 11.6 points and 3.2 assists per game last season, announced she was leaving, Graupe thought it crucial to find a replacement.
“When Hailee left, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t have any other options but Taylor,” Graupe said. “I was trying to find options that I was happy with. … If I hadn’t gotten her, I would’ve been in trouble. When I was recruiting her, and also when Hailee left, I thought I didn’t have a backup plan to Taylor. It became all the more important that I continue to stay on Taylor, and let her know how interested we were and how big of a part she could play on this team. So it was a stressful time recruiting her and knowing Taylor has got to be the one.”
But what helped was that Graupe was one of the first coaches to start recruiting her.
“It was a lot of nerves and fighting with over schools, and I didn’t like it because I saw more and more schools all the time, and it made me panic a little more,” Graupe said.
Graupe said Valley City State, Mayville State, University of Mary - where Henningsgard played her true freshman year - Minot State and even North Dakota State began to look at her after her sophomore year at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake. Henningsgard played with her sister Kennedy and went to the NJCAA Division I national tournament a year ago with LRSC.
Graupe said he was “always” in the ear of LRSC head coach Danny Mertens - who was Graupe’s assistant when he was LRSC’s head coach - about Henningsgard.
“She’s just a key,” Graupe said. “Our best lineup is when Taylor is at the point. … We’re at our best when Taylor is there, there’s no question about that.”
And while she scored more with LRSC - Henningsgard averages five points a game this year - she knows her role is to be a facilitator, Graupe said, which also takes pressure off of her to score.
“I think that’s a strong signal of how unselfish she is,” Graupe said. “Taylor is extremely unselfish. That’s what you like your point guard to be.”
However, Henningsgard showed scoring capability when she put up 12 points - and made the game-tying drive and score to send it to overtime - in DSU’s 82-76 win over Mayville State Wednesday.
“She’s strong enough that she can get to the basket, have a little contact and still finish,” Graupe said. “She’s not afraid to take it to the rim and at the big gals in there and try to finish.”
Maybe most exciting for that game was that it in a gym she was familiar with from her high school days in front of fans from her hometown.
“Not a lot of people have gotten to see me this year,” Henningsgard said. “So I had quite the crowd there (Wednesday). So that was exciting.”
But now in Dickinson, Henningsgard still feels like she fits right in.
“I don’t care about stats or anything, I just care about winning,” she said. “As of late, I think I’m settled in. It took the beginning of the year to find my role, as every player is going to find their role in a new year and new school. I think I’m settled in, and I think I can only improve from here.
“That’s exciting to me.”


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