For anyone glancing at a 2015-16 Lake Region State College men's basketball roster, the first thing to probably stand out was the hometowns of some of the players. Or in this case, the countries.
By Sam Herder
Journal Sports Editor
For anyone glancing at a 2015-16 Lake Region State College men’s basketball roster, the first thing to probably stand out was the hometowns of some of the players. Or in this case, the countries.
Four of the 10 players on the roster hailed from Australia. It’s developed into one of the most unique recruiting pipelines in college basketball, with both the men’s and women’s teams having success bringing in players.
From June 6-17, LRSC head men’s basketball coach Jared Marshall took a visit to Australia to continue strengthening that relationship.
“It was a building-relationship trip,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t just recruiting. I watched a lot of basketball over there. But I was also able to give a couple seminars about Lake Region State itself. It was a PowerPoint presentation about LRSC and coming to college and going to the states. It wasn't just athletics. It was a trip to represent Lake Region as a whole, too.”
Cara Demaine and Rebecca Mercer were the first Australian players to come to LRSC in the early-to-mid 2000s. Both had successful stints in the Royal blue, as Demaine went on to play at the University of North Dakota and Mercer went to Montana State.
LRSC went back to Australia in 2012 when Andrea Gobbo played for the Lady Royals for one season. Megan Cantellano is the most recent Australian for the Lady Royals and was a part of the national tournament teams last season and this season.
But it was when Patrick Thomas came to LRSC from Adelaide, Australia, in 2013 that marked the start of the pipeline on the men’s side.
In 2014, Ryan Clark and Tom Kubank followed Thomas from Adelaide. Ben Rennie made it the fourth player to come from Adelaide in 2015 and Daniel Chol Nuul also came to Devils Lake from Canberra, Australia.
The West Adelaide Basketball Club facilitates players at every level from youth up to a semi-pro premier league. Each basketball player to come to LRSC from Adelaide first developed in this club.
And the players LRSC has brought in so far have all gone on to four-year schools.
Thomas played the 2015-16 season at the University of Mary in Bismarck, where Kubank will also play this upcoming season.
Clark is heading to Dickinson State.
Rennie will be looked at as a leading scorer for the Royals this next season as a sophomore.
Graham Kubank, Tom’s dad, is the coach for the West Adelaide Bearcats, the premier team.
In February, Graham came to North Dakota to visit Tom, but also to check out LRSC and its athletic programs.
“When Graham came over here, he came over here with a purpose,” LRSC athletic director and head women’s basketball coach Danny Mertens said. “He went back and sold the school. When you get high reviews like that, you want to keep those relationship with people.”
After going back to Adelaide and telling the basketball club it’s a relationship they should continue, Graham extended an invite to Marshall to visit in the summer.
Marshall called it a “once in a lifetime” trip and was able to make the visit with the help from the club and money raised.
“We were able to accept this invitation and realize the benefits without using institutional funds by sharing the cost with the representatives from Australia and dollars fundraised by coach Marshall,” Erin Wood, LRSC Director of Development and Community Relations, said.
After a 14-15 hour flight, Marshall had a stacked agenda.
He went to Melbourne for a couple days to watch two big tournaments. Marshall did two days of presentations, the last to a crowd of 70 consisting of students, parents, club personnel and coaches.
Marshall held a youth camp of 50-60 kids from ages 10-14 and had a night of workouts with 16-18-year-old players.
And the best part for Marshall was the familiarity everyone had with LRSC.
“People know Lake Region over in Adelaide and Australia now just because we’ve had such success with Australians,” he said. “You tell some people about the players you’ve had and they go, ‘oh yeah, I know Lake Region and where it’s at.’ It’s a cool thing when you’re halfway across the world and people know what Lake Region State is even though we're in a small town of Devils Lake.”
“It’s not an opportunity that comes up a lot, even at the highest level,” Marshall continued. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me and the school. Just getting a chance to go over there and do something that I love and represent a college who I love working for. It was an experience that I’ll never forget.”
The continued pipeline
“The pipeline we have started with this region of Australia has been great for the institution,” Lloyd Halvorson, LRSC Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, said. “We get high quality basketball players, but more importantly we get high quality students that are overwhelmingly successful in the classroom.”
And the pipeline doesn’t look to be slowing down soon.
Marshall’s incoming freshmen class is bringing in another player from Adelaide. Mertens is bringing in a player from the other side of Australia.
The recruiting pipeline is getting stronger, and Marshall’s recent trip will further enhance that.
“It strengthens it that much more,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t just for athletics, it makes Lake Region look better as a whole. It helps keep the diversity of our campus going. You look at some of these kids that we’ve brought in over the years, they’re on the Dean’s list, they’re on the President’s List, they get good grades. They’re good students who represent the college well.”
And on the basketball court, LRSC is able to offer a chance to play right away and a shot to continue playing at a four-year school.
“The kids that we’ve brought over here, people over there look up to them,” Mertens said. “They’re going home with Lake Region gear. Jared has gone over there now giving our speech. Kids that want to go to the university, they’re going to pick Lake Region first because we’ve been on their soil.”