Basketball of Thursday, 22 July 2010

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South Dakota State women's basketball team to visit Ghana

Four returning members of the South Dakota State women's basketball team have taken extra shots this summer - the kind intended to prevent yellow fever, typhoid and malaria.

On Aug. 7, senior Kristin Rotert, junior Jill Young and sophomores Ashley Eide and Steph Paluch will leave for the West African nation of Ghana. They'll be part of an 11-person team - that also includes current University of South Dakota guard Annie Roche and former Jackrabbit Alison Anderson - on a 12-day mission trip organized by Campus Crusade for Christ International.

Apparently, earning a second consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament and finishing second in Division I in terms of team grade-point average wasn't accomplishment enough in 2010.

"I've never been on a mission before and a lot of times people do something more subtle, but we're going all the way with this one," said Eide, a former Washington High standout. "It took a little convincing to get my parents on board, but I really felt called to go."

Jacks coach Aaron Johnston needed far less convincing. The players won't miss any official workouts and are embarking on an experience unlike any he's had.

"Nothing's ever 100 percent safe," Johnston said. "It takes a lot of courage for these kids and their families to make it happen."

Trip leader Rick Pridey was all for it, too, when the players approached him with the idea one year ago. Although their contributions are no more important than those of other students, the SDSU players bring increased visibility to the cause domestically - the trip has required considerable and yet ongoing fundraising - and on location.

"As you can imagine, college women's basketball players going into Ghana, Africa ... let's just say it's not your every day occurrence," he said.

Most of the time there will be spent at the University of Ghana in the capital city of Accra with shorter stops in rural villages and orphanages.

The primary goal is to share and spread their Christian faith, something that's done more openly in Ghana than in the United States, according to Young. But they're planning to put on some impromptu basketball clinics, too, as the women's game is on the rise in Ghana.

At the very least, the Jacks will impart the basics of the 3-point shot during their African adventure.

"I have great expectations for it," Young said, "and I'm even expecting it'll go above my expectations."