Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Student-run media of Black Hills State University. The Jacket Journal / KBHU-TV / KBHU 89.1 FM & KJKT 90.7 FM "The Buzz".

BHSU Media

Jackets picked to finish fourth in RMAC

New look YellowJackets aim to exceed expectations after losing DII CCA National Player of the Year Joel Scott and All-RMAC Honorable Mention PJ Hayes to DI teams in the transfer window
Rylan Bruns
Matthew Ragsdale returns after starting every game for the Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team last season.

After an 82-87 loss to West Liberty University in the 2023 Division II Men’s Basketball Playoff, the BHSU Yellowjackets have spent the better part of the year preparing for another run to the Elite Eight.

Last year the Jackets finished off the regular season with a 24-4 overall record and a fifth-overall ranking in the South Central region. BHSU time and again controlled the offensive tempo, earning themselves the 34 overall offensive ranking on the national level.

However, the Jackets’ record scorer, Joel Scott, along with PJ Hayes, another stand-out player, both transferred out of BH at the end of last season. During his four years with BHSU, Scott became the third Yellow Jacket to score over 2,000 points with a career record of 2,457 points. Scott also ended his career with BHSU as the second-leading scorer in the nation with 805 points.

“Well, we have a new group,” said Ryan Thompson, the head coach of the BHSU Men’s Basketball team. “We lost a lot of the core that we had the last few years. That being said, Matthew

Ragsdale was in his first year with us last year and was second on our team in scoring.” Ragsdale is now a fifth-year transfer student. Previously, the 6’4 graduate student played for Western Colorado University; now he is the eldest on the Jackets’ squad.

“We’re definitely a little younger this year as opposed to last year,” Ragsdale said. Aside from Ragsdale, the young Jacket team consists of one other senior, five juniors, four sophomores and six freshmen.

Despite the influx of new faces at practice, team chemistry remains a strong point for the Jackets.

“I think the guys have gotten really close this preseason,” Ragsdale said. “We’ve been hanging outside of basketball and doing extra stuff off the court together. I think we’ve been able to really build a close relationship by this point.” The new recruits have also been holding their own on the court during the numerous practices and scrimmages throughout the off-season.

“We’re pleased with our newcomers,” Thompson said. “We brought in a mixture of transfers and high school student-athletes, and – you know – we’re excited to get going. I think we have a chance to be very competitive again this year.”

Of the newcomers, junior college transfer Myles Johnson brings proven scoring ability after averaging 21.6 points per game at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Freshman Blake Vollmer, a highly sought after DII recruit, adds additional scoring power after averaging 19.6 points per game his senior year at Winner High School. The Yellow Jackets will open the season Nov. 10 in the Donald E. Young Center against Oklahoma Christian University (OCU), followed by a matchup against the University of Arkansas Fort Smith (UAFS) the following night. “It’s been tight the last two years we’ve opened with [OCU] and [UAFS],” Thompson said. “I expect really good games again this year.”

The Yellow Jackets first opened against OCU in 2021; BHSU pulled through with a 76- 73 overtime victory. Last season the Jackets defeated Oklahoma Christian 80-73 in the season opener. UAFS, however, historically poses less of a threat to BH, falling to the Jackets 77-62 in 2021 and 73-49 in 2022.

Despite the statistical and historical odds stacked in favor of the Yellowjackets making a third straight Final Four run, the team prefers to stick to fundamentals and not be prisoners of past success.

“I think any time you start to look too far ahead or worry about the end result, you start to skip steps,” Thompson said. “As a new team, we need to stay focused on staying present in the moment and doing the most we can with today. I do think we have a high ceiling, but we have to make sure we don’t skip steps and get better each day.”

Despite being picked to finish fourth in the RMAC Preseason Coaches Poll, the Yellow Jackets enter the season ranked No. 12 in the NCAA DII Preseason Power Rankings, behind only Colorado Mesa in terms of RMAC teams.

About the Contributor
Nathan Feller, Editor-in-Chief