Recruiting main focus for Graupe several months into MSU tenure

New Minot State women’s basketball coach Mark Graupe didn’t mince words Wednesday when discussing the state of future MSU recruiting classes.

“We’re behind,” Graupe said.

The former Dickinson State coach has been trying to cover lost ground by venturing on several recruiting trips, including making a stop at the Tournament of Champions held this week in Chicago.

The Tournament of Champions is considered one of the largest NCAA talent observation opportunities in the country, with athletes for around the nation traveling to participate in the tournament. More than 800 teams compete at the event, with 78 basketball courts set up across the McCormick Place.

“I think I saw coaches from everyone in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference at the last few events,” Graupe said. “When at this tournament, you have to do your homework in advance and have an idea of who you’re looking for. You can’t just watch blindly. We have different papers on different teams organized on certain players that we need to see and we try to space out our scouting.”

Graupe plans to take further recruiting trips this month with the focus on the 2018 recruiting class.

“We’ve got more work to do,” he said. “I’ll go on the road again from the 18th to the 30th straight for more recruiting. I’ll focus on the season ahead in August, but right now I’m focused on the class of 2018.”

The new leader of the MSU program has already added an impact player for the 2017 season in Minot native and former Division I athlete Holly Johnson. Johnson, a former Minot High athlete, was convinced to play her final year of college basketball at Minot State by former MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding. After Green Gerding resigned following the 2016-2017 season, Johnson met with Graupe and honored that commitment.

“Holly came in really early, within the first week or two, of when I was hired,” Graupe said. “We met and I’ve actually known her dad for a long time. We hit it off just fine.”

He said adding a player of Johnson’s caliber could be critical in providing a jump start to a program that won just four games last year.

“It’s going to be crucial,” Graupe said. “I was just talking to the coach at the University of Sioux Falls and he said the year before last year, they weren’t that far off. Now, you add Holly and two freshman new into the mix with hopefully some better injury luck this year and he said ‘You guys are going to be very competitive.’ “

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge