A fierce competitor, Jackrabbit redshirt freshman Kalen Garry makes instant impact

Mar. 16—SIOUX FALLS — In the aftermath of the Summit League championship, South Dakota State star guard Zeke Mayo was asked about the effort of Jackrabbit redshirt freshman Kalen Garry in the championship game.

Mayo responded that Garry is emblematic of the talent on the team and that he knew Garry would be a player in the future based on his effort in practice last season.

And then Luke Appel summarized it all, much more briefly.

"That kid is a dawg," Appel said.

"He's a dawg," Mayo added in response.

The pride of De Smet, the redshirt freshman Garry has played in all 34 games, starting 15 and averaging 7.4 points per game while shooting 34% from 3-point range and 40% overall from the field. The 6-foot-3 guard was clutch with some late free throws in the Jacks' 76-68 Summit League tournament championship win over Denver on Tuesday night, capping an 11-point performance.

"I was kind of nervous but it was just another game," Garry said on the court after the game. "We had our gameplan; we just had to come in and execute. We have the best fans in the country, best fanbase. We just came in and worked hard and the outcome, we got the job done."

"It just shows the talent we have on this team and the ability we have to throw out there," Mayo said of Garry. "Kalen is young, obviously, a redshirt freshman but I've seen it before in practice. I've seen that even though he didn't play last year, it was like "OK, this guy is going to be good. ... He's one of those players, he's gritty for us, he makes plays. I don't think it's a surprise to any of us."

Garry, who was the 2022 South Dakota Gatorade player of the year and a three-time player of the year in Class B, relished the spotlight in Sioux Falls. He could be seen pumping himself up throughout the three Summit tournament games and basking in the moment with his teammates. SDSU coach Eric Henderson said Garry is a great competitor and fits in with the demeanor of the team. Garry also stepped up on Tuesday night late when veteran guard Charlie Easley, one of the Jacks' top defenders, rolled his ankle and had to leave the game.

"Kalen, he loves the moment, he's such a competitor, you can tell," Henderson said. "Sometimes he's kind of an angry competitor, and it's like, 'Come on, bro, let's enjoy this now too.' It's pretty nice that when Charlie goes down, you have another tough competitor going in."

Garry is one of three former South Dakota Class B players on the Jacks' roster, joined by his former high school teammate Damon Wilkinson and White River alum Joe Sayler, both of whom are redshirting this season.

"They're on the come up, and I'm excited to play with those guys," Garry said. "They're pushing, and they'll be in the mix in the future. The small-school pride is special and it's so great to compete and to be on the same team as Joe and Damon."

Garry said he's excited to play in the NCAA tournament, an event he's dreamed about since he was a youngster. The Jackrabbits will learn their postseason destination on Sunday during the nationally televised selection show, in which Garry will be eager to see the Jacks' name pop up.

"We are playing our best ball," Garry said. "We just have to keep working and keep hoopin'. Our coaches do a great job of preparing us for whoever we play, and, hopefully, we can go get a few wins in the Dance."