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Schnepf: North Dakota State Bison basketball programs ready to take next step into a new practice facility

FARGO -- Dave Richman was imagining where his desk would go in his future office Tuesday afternoon. One window will provide him a view of Dacotah Field and the Shelly Ellig indoor track building. Another window provides him a view of the basketba...

North Dakota State University basketball coaches Dave Richman and Maren Walseth are seen Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2015, on the practice courts inside the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State University basketball coaches Dave Richman and Maren Walseth are seen Tuesday on the practice courts inside the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. (David Samson / The Forum)

FARGO - Dave Richman was imagining where his desk would go in his future office Tuesday afternoon. One window will provide him a view of Dacotah Field and the Shelly Ellig indoor track building. Another window provides him a view of the basketball practice facility.
It will be awhile before Richman will move into his new digs. But in about a week or so, he and his North Dakota State men’s basketball team will be moving to the new practice facility and locker rooms. Never mind that construction workers still have another 10 months of work to do on the Sanford Health Athletic Complex - formerly known as the Bison Sports Arena.
You wouldn’t recognize the place.
“Make no mistake. It’s a big, big recruiting tool, and we all know recruiting is the lifeblood of your program,” said Richman, who can’t wait to show future recruits the finished product. “Letting them walk through it and just watch the expression on their faces ... that will be fun.”
It’s certainly the day and age when colleges are trying to gain any recruiting advantage they can. Football helmets - like the green matte-finish ones NDSU unveiled Monday - are supposedly influencing high school kids these days.
Whether you buy into that or not, you can bet high school recruits will be impressed with what NDSU officials are dubbing the SHAC.
The practice facility, an addition that sits between the original BSA structure and the indoor track, is big enough for a regulation-sized court and two full-sized courts that run the other way. It has enough room for bleachers on either side of the main floor to become the second court for the North Dakota Class A boys and girls state basketball tournaments - if high school league officials are so inclined to move it from the Fargodome.
And we’ve all heard the stories how recruits were not shown the aging, sardine-box like locker rooms of the old BSA. There will be no reason to hide the new locker rooms, which include separate wooden lockers, individual shower stalls and a meeting room that is equipped with theater-style seating.
NDSU women’s basketball coach Maren Walseth calls the new practice facility their “own personal lab.” The facility, meant for only basketball, is the only one of its kind right now in the Summit League. No longer will basketball players be practicing with tracksters running around the track and baseball players smacking balls in the batting cages.
“First and foremost, we want to bring in quality individuals,” Walseth said. “But at the end of the day, they are 16- to 17-year-old kids ... material things mean a lot to them.”
For years, as far back as the Ben Woodside days starting in 2004, NDSU recruits have been told about a new arena and practice facility. Kory Brown and Chris Kading, the lone seniors on this year’s men’s team, remember the talk.
“We can finally get into a real practice place and not this closed-off warehouse,” Brown said earlier this week, just before he was about to go through another practice in an off-campus warehouse.
“It will be nice having it right here on campus ... it will make our day easier,” Kading said. “It’s good that we will get a little taste of the new building. It will be fun to come back and watch the guys play in the new arena next year.”
Next year is when the Bison will actually play games in the SHAC. In the meantime, they will continue playing games 10 miles from campus at Scheels Arena - where the Bison men will play an exhibition game tonight against the University of Mary. The women will continue playing on campus at Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse - where they will play an exhibition game against Minnesota-Crookston on Thursday night.
Brown and Kading said they are far more excited about actually playing a game than moving into the new practice facility. After all, these are guys who decided to come play basketball at NDSU when all the recruiting bells and whistles were just talk.
“To me, that wasn’t a big selling point,” Brown said referring to facilities. “I wanted to find a place with a group of guys I could relate with ... that’s what got me here.”
Without the new facility, the Bison men have advanced to three NCAA tournaments since 2009. It was suggested to Richman that now that he has a new practice facility and eventually a new office and new arena, all he has to do is win the Summit title every year.
“There is some perspective to all of this,” Richman said. “All those other guys, they didn’t come here for bricks and mortar. They came in here for the culture, they came in her for the substance. They played for each other and they played the right way. And there was a toughness that was instilled in them. You still went about your business and got better.”
After all, it’s not fancy locker rooms, a new practice facility, a new arena or even funky helmets that win games. But it doesn’t hurt.

Related Topics: COLLEGE BASKETBALL
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