Roseau's Borowicz, North Dakotans could provide instant impact for UND

GRAND FORKS — Travis Brewster and his staff made it a priority to go around the area and lock down all of the top recruits.

They succeeded.

They landed North Dakota Miss Basketball, Megan Zander of Mandan. They also landed Miss Basketball runner-up Lilly Keplin of Bismarck Century. They received a commitment from Maggie Manson of West Fargo Sheyenne, a two-time first-team all-state player. And they went into Minnesota to grab Roseau, Minn., star Kacie Borowicz, who helped the Rams to a state championship.

“It was very important,” Brewster said of getting the area players. “With the internet and AAU, things have changed dramatically, where I think North Dakota used to get overlooked as far as players go. For us to keep them in the state is always a priority for us.”

Now, loaded with a rookie class featuring all of the area’s top seniors from a year ago, Brewster hopes that will eventually lead to big things for UND, which opens the regular season Nov. 5 at Arizona.

“There are always question marks,” Brewster said. “‘Can this kid really play Division I or can they not?’ You really don’t know about anybody — whether it’s a five-star recruit or a zero-star recruit — until they get out there and play. You have an idea. You have a hope. But the biggest thing with the area players is that if they want to be here, and you’re going to be patient with them, they’re going to develop. That’s something we’ve done a lot.”

UND lost five of its top six scorers from last season’s team, including first-team All-Summit League member Lexi Klabo. So, the Fighting Hawks may look toward the rookies to contribute right away.

In last Thursday’s 98-19 exhibition win over Concordia-Moorhead, Borowicz had a game-high 19 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Keplin had 15 points, while Zander had seven points and a team-high nine rebounds. Manson had six points.

“It was really fun,” Borowicz said of the exhibition win. “I think we could use a game with a little more competition to really gauge how we are at the moment. But even with the score, it was a really different atmosphere for me. I really enjoyed it.”

Teaming up

During the recruiting process, the North Dakota players communicated with each other a little bit.

They knew one another from being AAU teammates and prep rivals.

“We talked about playing together and how cool it would be,” Zander said.

Manson was the first to commit. Then, Keplin and Zander followed.

“It’s pretty cool we get to represent our own state and be a part of something where we have the entire state behind us,” Keplin said. “I feel a lot of pride in being able to represent North Dakota.”

Keplin also said she’s enjoying being teammates with Zander instead of opponents.

“Megan was obviously big competition for us,” Keplin said. “It was always so much fun playing against her. It’s obviously a lot better playing with her. Obviously, she’s really good at blocking shots and getting rebounds. I told her that I’m so glad I don’t have to deal with the blocked shots anymore.”

Borowicz, meanwhile, received an offer from UND before her freshman year.

“I always felt supported by them, like they really cared about me,” said Borowicz, who also visited South Dakota. “Going into my junior year, I really wanted to make a decision and I was really attracted to UND because it was so close to home. I have so much support from my family and grandparents. I really liked the coaching staff and it’s a great school.”

Brewster said the coaching staff will be closely monitoring the rookies to see how much they can handle, but some of them could be impactful players early on, he hinted.

“They’ve got to earn it, but I think some of them can,” Brewster said. “I think some of them are more poised than others and ready for that. Each week, we see who is progressing. They all have great basketball IQs. They’re all sharp in that aspect. It’s just getting them to translate that to when they have someone in their face guarding them.

“The one big thing about this group is that they all have the expectation to play well and they all want to win. This group wants to make UND a special place and that’s a unique thing about this group.”