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Coaching SDSU women fulfills longheld dream for Freeman product Erika Sage

Mar. 21—BROOKINGS — The phrase "living the dream" gets used a lot.

But listen to South Dakota State's Erika Sage for a few minutes and it's not just a trite statement. It has meaning because Sage loves her role on the Jackrabbit women's basketball team coaching staff.

Sage, a native of Freeman, is in her third season on the SDSU staff, holding the title of director of player development. It's a job that has all sorts of duties, each of them geared toward doing the little things to help the Jackrabbits win.

Considering Sage was an SDSU fan growing up and remembers going to Jackrabbit games at the Summit League tournament, being on the sidelines is a special feeling.

"I was a huge SDSU fan," Sage said. "That never changed and now that I have a chance to be a part of the program and I have a chance to continue learning and growing from one of the best head coaches in the country."

With the Jacks' 2024 Summit League championship title, she's been a part of back-to-back tournament titles and trips to the NCAA tournament. The Jackrabbits open NCAA play against No. 5-seeded Utah at 9 p.m. Central on Saturday night in Spokane, Washington.

"The adversity and the battles we've gone through, they made this team grow up," Sage said. "How the team has just stayed together and they've battled, they've overcome a lot and a Summit League tournament title is a good testament to the work they've put in and what they're capable of in a moment like this."

Sage, 25, was a talented player for the Freeman Flyers who was a first-team all-state selection in 2017 and a finalist for Miss Basketball. After high school, she played for Northwestern College and was a member of the Red Raiders' team for three seasons until injuries forced her to the sideline. She was a student assistant coach for one year at NWC before joining SDSU.

On game days, she keeps track of scouting defenses and tracking play calls and foul calls. She also helps the team review video clips.

When the Jacks aren't playing games, she's leading the Jacks' video and film responsibilities, breaking down practices and games. She also helps with player workouts, travel plans, recruiting duties and summer camps.

"I'm kind of here to do whatever the coaching staff needs from me," Sage said. "It might depend on the game and what's happening, but I love it all, and I'm thankful to get to be a part of it."

Sage commended the Jacks' family atmosphere among the players and coaches, something that stems from 24th-year head coach Aaron Johnston, who is two victories away from 600 in his career.

"He treats everyone so well," Sage said. "All the way through the program, from the administration and to every coach and player, he just shows how much he cares. That's a very special thing and it's a testament to him."

She said she's eager to continue to build her college coaching acumen, with dreams of being a head coach some day. For now, she's eager to keep helping the Jackrabbits make a run in March.

"It's great for me personally, it's great for my development in coaching," Sage said. "It's great for my future in the coaching field and working in women's basketball."