Who is the Best High School Basketball Player in South Dakota – EVER?
I was talking high school hoops the other day here at the radio stations. We were talking about some of the dominant players around the state.
Over the years, we've had some pretty darn good basketball players come out of the state. but when you're talking sports, you inevitably come around to talking about the best of all time.
A few years ago with the help of Mell Klein and John Odney. Oh, and they do know what they are talking about when talking about The Best Ever Basketball Players in South Dakota History:
At first, I thought this would be a slam dunk easy story: who is the Best Boys High School Basketball Player? But the more you think about it, the harder it gets. So in essence, this story is more of a conversation starter than an end to all arguments.
I started my search for the Best Boys High School Basketball Player in South Dakota history knowing that I was going to need experts.
I contacted Jeff Fylling who has done play-by-play for the Augustana Vikings for the past 30 years. He suggested Mel Klein and John Odney.
Odney is in The South Dakota Coaches Hall of Fame, and came up through the system at Washington High School in Sioux Falls. Odney was Head Coach from 1976-77 to 1988-89. Mel Klein is a member of the South Dakota Sports Hall of Fame, was the first-ever basketball coach at O'Gorman where he would lead the team for 7 years, was an assistant basketball coach at USD for three years, and then 9 years head coach at Augustana.
Now, before you get your undies in a bunch, know that I'm simply sharing information that's been gathered over decades of watching South Dakota high school basketball.
Mel originally gave me his list in order, but John kindly declined with a firm "NO!" So, to keep things fair we did it alphabetically. Both their comments appear if a player appeared on both of their lists.
Steve BrownHamlin High School
Odney: Extremely aggressive offensive player - constantly attacking. Led his team to the 1974 Class B Championship. First Team All State his junior/senior yeas. Scored 50 points in a semi final game in the '74 state tournament. 1800 points in 2 years at Hamilin.
Jim IversonPlatte High School
Klein: Some people call him the best basketball player ever to come out of the state. He went on to play at Kansas State, went into the service and was with the Celtics for a while. He was an old time, old school basketball player. Coached at South Dakota State for a long time. 6'1", played football, ran track, did all those things.
Don JacobsonLake Norden High School
Klein: I played against him one year. He was at South Dakota State when I was at Northern, so I know how good he was. I saw him play a lot of basketball. He is far and away my first choice. 6'2" maybe 6'3", but a blocking fullback. I mean he was big and strong, could jump, and you couldn't keep him away from the free-throw line. In those days you had to be strong to get to the basket and he could get there. He was excellent.
Odney: Outstanding shooter in high school and college. He was the leading scorer in South Dakota prep boys basketball for 50 years. He scored 2825 in high school.
Eric KlineAberdeen High School
Klein: There was no range he couldn't shoot. He was the Steph Curry of the 90's. I don't know how many games he may have had over 40 points. He probably had games where he scored in the high 50's playing conservative day basketball in the state.
Odney: Disciplined player at both ends of the court. spent countless hours perfecting his skills. Was on the Aberdeen State Championship team his freshmen year. In one game in his career he scored 59 points. 2025 for his high school career and named SD Mr Basketball in 1991.
Freddie KnifeCheyenne-Eagle Butte High School
Klein: A lot of people in South Dakota will remember him. A ball handler before that was fancy. Wherever you had to go to get the ball you would find him. He was very good.
Tom McGrannTom McGrann, Watertown High School
Odney: A very mobile big man who possessed good quickness. Led Watertown to the State A title in 1959. Scored 32 in the finals against Lead which was a scoring record for 30 years in Class A.
Mike MillerMitchell High School
Klein: He probably played some as a freshman, but Gary Munsen didn't like freshman mistakes. [Munsen] probably waited a few years to play Mike.
Odney: As a youngster he developed great ball handling skills and he grew into a tall player. Those skills served him well. Was an integral jpart of 3 state championship teams at Mitchell. In one game he scored 54 points and for his career totaled 1724 points. He was a McDonalds High School All-American his senior year.
Josh MuellerWest Central High School
Klein: There wasn't a shot he didn't like.
Odney: He played with an edge serving as a lightning rod for opposing team's fans He loved it and usually stuck it to them. He was a great competitor and great motivator for his team. 2563 career points.
Odney: A dominant big man who helped Yankton become an extremely strong team for a four-year period. 4 year All State and three times first team All State. Led the Bucks to the 1974 Class A Championship. He averaged 21 pts, 17 rebounds his senior year. Named to the Parade Magazine Top 40 Players in the United States his senior year.
Rick NissenMiller High School
Klein: Rick Nissen and Kim Templeton, they were the mainstays on that team. Nissen was 6'2", great point guard. Played at USD.
Eric PiatkowskiRapid City Stevens High School
Klein: He could shoot it from day one. He could walk into the gym and start making them. He went to Nebraska and played well. A really good high school player.
Odney: I coached againset Eric during his high school career at Stevens, and he was a problem for us - a big problem! 3 year starter at Stevens and 3 time first team Class A All Stater. Scored 1517 in his career and his senor year he averabed 25.6 pts and 10.3 rebounds . Scored 51 in on game. Led STevens to the 1989 AA Championship and was named SD Mr. Basketball.
Bob SwanhorstCresbard High School
Klein: If not the all-time leading scorer in the state, he's probably up there. Not only could he score and play on really good teams, but was a tremendous rebounder. Big guy in those days, 6'5", 200 lbs easy, very good.
Odney: A strong physical player who had the ability to dominate a game. 2404. In 1956 he led his team to a runner up finish in the Class B Tournament and in 1957 led his team to the Championship. That '57 team compiled a record of 38 wins and 1 loss. In the cmapionshiop roound , which was Bob's senoior year he scored a total of 91 points.
Rex SwettHuron High School
Klein: Tremendous. He went on to play baseball an basketball at the University of Nebraska. He was really good.
Odney: Multi-talented athlete who was one of the finest to come out of the State. A great hurdler in track, outstanding Baseball Shortstop for the University of Nebraska and also an outstanding basketball player at UNL. In 1958 he led the Tigers to the Classs A basketball Championship as they compiled a 22 win 0 loss record. All American Highschool, BB plaer and 1958 SD Highschool Athlete of the year.
John ThomasAlexandria High School
Klein: Played on two state championship teams. 6' 5", strong, hornery guy, great defensive player, but could rebound and shoot. He hung with the Boston Celtics until JoJo White got out of the service and took the 13th job in those days. He's legit.