Tom Archdeacon: Wright State's basketball family -- 'The game has given us so much'

Apr. 4—FAIRBORN — The basketball gym has always been a special place for Clint Sargent.

That was never more true than that day in his freshman season at South Dakota State when he saw Jill Young in Frost Arena.

"I just remember seeing her walk across the floor," he said. "She wasn't in uniform, and she caught my eye."

She was also a freshman — she'd just opted out of her scholarship to Creighton without ever playing for the Bluejays — but NCAA transfer rules required her to sit out a redshirt season.

Clint said it took him a couple of weeks "to get my courage up" and text her. They began dating in February.

And where did they go on their first date back in 2008?

"Probably our favorite place — Applebee's," he recalled the other day as he sat in his new office at Wright State.

"I think we went to Walmart to get a cable cord for his TV," Jill said when she spoke by phone from their Waynesville home. "That was our first public outing.

"After that, it probably was Applebee's. There's weren't many choices in Brookings, (S.D.) and that 2 (meals)-for-$20 was great for college students."

If there's a slight divergence in their recollections of the heart, there are none when it comes to their hoops.

Both wore No. 10 for their respective SDSU teams.

And both went on to become two of the most prolific three-point shooters in school history.

After making 305 career treys, Jill is No. 2 all-time in the women's program. With 265 three pointers, Clint is No. 3 all-time among the men.

Clint scored 1,505 career points, eighth best among all Jackrabbits men.

Jill scored 1,356 points.

While hoops helped define them, it was a convergence of the hearts that truly tells their story.

They married after Jill's senior season and Clint's first year playing for Heidelberg in Germany's Pro "A" League. Two months after they wed, Jill was in Germany, too, playing for the Heidelberg women's team.

After that season they returned to South Dakota where Clint — following a dream to coach that had begun when he was in high school in Sioux City, Iowa — became the director of basketball operations for the Jackrabbits' men, who were coached, like he had been, by Scott Nagy.

Although Jill — who grew up in Mitchell, South Dakota, the daughter of Tom Young, a legendary coach with over 500 victories — had once hoped to be a college coach, as well, she said she also wanted to be a stay-at-home mom like her own mother, and she followed that path.

Today, the Sargents have four children — Gracie, CJ, Jordy, and Landry — and last Friday they all were center stage, as Clint was named the new head basketball coach of Wright State University.

"Now and then Clint and I will talk to each other about just how much the game of basketball has given us," Jill said. "It goes from growing up with the game; to our experiences in college; both of us going to Europe to play after we married; and now for it to be his career and leading to this (moment).

"And now we're sharing that love with our kids. We're out in the driveway playing 2-on-2 quite a bit, and 3-on-3 when the little guy wants to try.

"We spend a lot of time with basketball and have fun with it. It's pretty cool when you think about it. The game has given us so much."

And while she didn't become a full-time coach, Jill did spend this past season on the sideline.

She and another mom teamed up to coach the Waynesville third-grade team that Gracie is on.

Playing in the Dayton Metro League and in four extra tournaments — including ones at Thanksgiving, New Year's and on Dr. Martin Luther King Day — they had 33 games.

"It was a lot," Jill said. "A lot of times I'd bring the stroller, strap the little guy in there and give him a sucker, and the 4 and 6 year olds were supposed to keep an eye on him behind the bench.

"We made it work."

Hoop dreams

Clint said his hoop dreams started with his mom, Mary Ann, in the living room of their South Sioux City, Nebraska, home:

"Early on, I remember playing with my mom on a hoop that just hung on the door in the living room. We'd use a Nerf ball.

"I was a big Chicago Bulls fan. And I remember watching Kirk Hinrich when he was at Kansas; and Nate Funk was with Creighton. They both were Sioux City, Iowa guys.

"I lived in South Sioux City, Nebraska, but I drove across the bridge to Sioux City, Iowa to go to Bishop Heelan High School. My mom, aunts, uncle and cousins all went there."

After starring for the Crusaders, he said he chose South Dakota State over South Dakota and Minnesota State because of "the Division I schedule," and Nagy and his staff.

During his career, his SDSU teams beat schools especially familiar to him — Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa. He twice won All-Summitt League honors.

Jill — who had played on the Mitchell Christian School varsity since seventh grade — had made 462 career three pointers and become the state's all-time girls high school scorer with 3,317 points.

Her SDSU teams made the NCAA Tournament each of the four seasons she played and freshman year her 34-3 Jackrabbits overwhelmed No. 10 seed TCU before losing to No. 2 Baylor — then coached by Kim Mulkey, who's now at LSU — on a last-second shot.

Because of Jill's redshirt season, Clint finished his eligibility a year before her and played professionally in Germany. The couple married in July of that year and some five weeks later — because the Heidelberg women's coaches saw Jill play in her final NCAA Tournament against Purdue — the newlyweds both were playing in Germany.

"It was our first year of marriage and we were over there by ourselves, but we learned to lean on each other," Clint said. "It set our marriage on a course I'm extremely thankful for."

They also travelled around Europe that season, visiting places like Italy, France, Switzerland, and England.

After returning to the basketball operations job for two seasons at SDSU, Clint joined Nagy's staff a year after his old coach had taken the Wright State job. Three years ago, he was elevated to the associate head coach.

Nagy's success — 167 victories in eight seasons here, two NCAA Tournament bids and three Horizon League Coach of the Year honors — helped land him the Southern Illinois job back in his home state last week.

The move happened quite unexpectedly and WSU — already in a state of transition with athletic director Bob Grant's retirement last week and the elevation of Joylynn Brown as interim AD — immediately tried to stabilize its basketball program.

WSU didn't interview any other candidates and quicky named Sargent as the 10th head coach in program history.

'Big heart'

Sargent spoke the players as soon as word leaked about Nagy's likely exit. He assuaged the hurt and fears and assured them they'd remain in good hands.

Although 6-foot-9 starter AJ Braun had entered the transfer portal before Nagy's departure — as had redshirt freshman Dayjaun Anderson; and senior Andrew Welage had opted not to return for a fifth season — Sargent believes the Raiders will be able to retain the rest of their returning roster.

He also feels good about the commitments of three incoming freshman.

Jill said her husband will connect to his players because of his "big heart" and the "humility" he's shown throughout his career.

Clint said he believes being a husband and father enriches his ability to coach:

"One cup pours into the other. So often when I'm speaking to one of my children, I feel like I just spoke some of those same things on the practice floor earlier in the day. There are a lot of the same messages."

I spoke to Jill the other night right after Caitlin Clark, thanks to nine three pointers, had scored 41 points to lift Iowa over LSU and into the Final Four.

"We had a chance to meet her at the Gulf Coast Showcase we played in at Thanksgiving," Jill said. "They came in after us and Clint talked to them and set up a little meeting for us. (Caitlin) was great.

"And Gracie was able to get her Clark shirt autographed and take some pictures with her.

"Gracie's just a huge fan now."

Speaking of three-point phenoms, Gracie lives with two pretty good ones.

Asked who was the better shooter, Clint didn't hesitate:

"My wife That's a true statement whether you're looking at percentage or makes and probably currently, if we went out and shot."

Jill laughed when she heard his response: "He might have the edge on me now because he's around a ball a lot more than me now.

"But back in the day...."

Back in the day — which is how this story began — his eye was on her, not the hoop.