Posted On: 11/15/18 6:41 PM

I went to Vermillion, S.D., over the weekend to watch some Division 1 college basketball, check out the University of South Dakota program, and spend some time with head coach Dawn Plitzuweit and her staff. The primary reason for my trip, though, was to watch Madison McKeever play point guard. The 5’7 junior from Erskine, Minn., who scored 3,298 points in a decorated career at Win-E-Mac, has been remarkably successful at the D1 level. She was the Summit League’s 6th Woman of the Year as a freshman, and quickly established herself as a legitimate D1 performer. As a sophomore she started 35 of 36 games and helped the Coyotes go undefeated in the Summit League en route to the conference championship.

The entire family gathered for the festivities in 2015 when Madison McKeever signed her NLI with South Dakota.

Madi’s journey from small-town hero to college star was on my mind Wednesday as many of Minnesota’s best players sat down in their school gymnasiums, smiled for the cameras, and signed their National Letters of Intent. Among those players was another small-town guard who is beating the odds. Her name is Mariah McKeever, and she is Madison’s little sister. Mariah signed on the dotted line to join the Dragons of Minnesota State University-Moorhead, one of the best Division 2 programs around. Mariah plays for class A powerhouse Ada-Borup.

You know there were not many people who believed Madison would make it to D1, but she did. Mariah had even more doubters – yes, I was definitely among them – but she, too, has proved all of us wrong, rising from oblivion in the Prep Girls Hoops rankings to become a scholarship-level player. Mariah works as hard as anyone, is as tough as they come and knows how to win.

Seeing the McKeever girls reminded me how much of an investment in time, energy and money parents make to see their kids get to the next level. Bernice McKeever has a very used minivan that may set some sort of record for most miles driven before it croaks. When you live in Erskine and practice is 275 miles away in the Twin Cities, the miles do add up. The Borowicz family has made the round trip from Roseau to the Twin Cities – it’s 6 hours each way – so many times they have lost count. Daughter #1 Kiley Borowicz is in her sophomore year at MSU-Moorhead. Daughter #2 Kacie Borowicz signed Wednesday with North Dakota. Daughter #3 Katie Borowicz is a high school sophomore who is a lock for D1, as well. It’s a commitment, and the road can be awfully bumpy at times.

Anyway, Madison looked great on Sunday against an overmatched University of Incarnate Word. The D1 school from San Antonio and the Southland Conference, who will play the Minnesota Gophers in December, simply couldn’t hang with McKeever and the Coyotes. She wasn’t the only Minnesotan who impressed for USD. Sophomore guard Liv Korngable of Rochester Mayo overcame some early shooting woes to score 8 points in 17 minutes. Post Hannah Sjerven of Rogers came off the bench to shoot 6 of 6 from the field and 3 of 3 at the free throw line. Sjerven began her college career at the University of New Mexico before transferring to USD. After sitting out last season she reminded us of why she averaged 15 and 15 as a high school senior.

One pleasant signing day surprise

There are few surprises on signing day anymore. Thanks to the magic of Twitter, we learn of college commitments much earlier than in the past. Signing day just makes it official. On Wednesday, however, one of the top offensive threats in the state announced her commitment for the first time. It was Lariah Washington of St. Cloud Apollo and the Minnesota Comets who signed her name on the dotted line with D1 Eastern Illinois.

Other signing day highlights

#14 Olivia Lane (Pequot Lakes, North Tartan) and #5 Kacie Borowicz (Roseau, Stars Amundson) signed with the University of North Dakota.

#1 Kallie Theisen (Wayzata, North Tartan) and #10 Tori Nelson (Henry Sibley, Stars Amundson) made it official with South Dakota State.

Forest Lake had three players sign NLIs. (L to R) Kenzie Stumnie, Abby Leach and Abigail Groeneweg.

Forest Lake had three name-brand players make it official as #34 Kenzie Stumne, #26 Abigail Groeneweg and #74 Abby Leach signed their NLIs. Stumne, who played for the Minnesota Fury, will attend D1 Montana State, Leach will take her long-ball prowess to NIACC in Mason City, Iowa, while Groeneweg, who like Leach played AAU ball for Minnesota Stars Nelson, will be at St. Cloud State. Unfortunately for basketball fans, Groeneweg’s commitment was for volleyball at which she also excels.

Other top 10 prospects who made it official Wednesday (at least those whose photo made it to Twitter) included:

#2 Sara Scalia (North Tartan) of Stillwater signed with coach Lindsay Whalen at the University of Minnesota

#3 Destinee Oberg (Stars Nelson) of Bloomington Kennedy via Holy Angels committed to Arkansas

#4 Frannie Hottinger (North Tartan) of Cretin-Derham Hall made it official with Lehigh

#6 McKenna Hofschild (Prior Lake, Fury) was surrounded by a huge crowd as she sealed the deal with Seton Hall in New Jersey. The night before, she and most of her Lakers teammates had gathered to support two of their former teammates playing against each other in college – sophomores Riley Wheatcraft of D2 Concordia-St. Paul and Morgan Anderson of D3 Wisconsin-Superior.

#7 Sara Stapleton (Stars Nelson) of Centennial signed with Wisconsin

Schools seem to be upping the ante on their announcements in recent years, putting out videos and Tweets with some rather elaborate graphics like the one Drake made for Taylor McAulay.

#8 Taylor McAulay (Fury) of Centennial committed to Drake

#9 Hannah Purcell (North Tartan) of Annandale signed with DePaul

That leaves Masengo Mutanda (North Tartan) of Robbinsdale Armstrong as the highest-ranked unsigned senior at #12. Also unannounced to date,  as far as we are aware, is #25 Taylie Scott (North Tartan) of Heritage Christian, #28 Lydia Sussner of Minneota, and #29 Madison Gehloff (Minnesota Rise) of Waseca. By our account there have been 24 players so far from the class of 2019 who have committed to play in Division 1.

The highest-ranked player committed to a Division 2 school is #15 Joey Batt (Rise) of New Ulm, who is going to Minnesota State Mankato. #19 Emma Carpenter (Fury) of Eastview was a steal for Minnesota-Crookston. #21 Kaylee Nelson (Fury) of Roseville committed to Minnesota Duluth, #27 Alyssa Daugherty (Comets) of Zimmerman signed with Concordia-St. Paul, and #36 Taytum Rhoades (Fury) of Minnehaha Academy will attend Upper Iowa. We count 21 D2 commitments to date although more were trickling in on Thursday afternoon.

The highest-ranked player going to an NAIA school is #20 Hannah DeMars (Stars Amundson) of Grand Rapids, who committed to Jamestown. The top JUCO players are #51 Allie Negen (High Impact) of Mountain Iron-Buhl and #52 Sierra Morrow (Stars Turner) of Minneapolis Edison, both of whom will attend NIACC.

Top photo: Senior Mariah McKeever of Ada-Borup signed her National Letter of Intent Wednesday to attend MSU-Moorhead next year.