MARSHALL - Across the highway from Southwest Minnesota State University, Marshall's Austin Saugstad finalized his decision to continue his basketball career at another Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference institution. Saugstad, a four year varsity player for the Marshall Tigers, signed his letter of intent to attend Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. on Wednesday. For Saugstad, a 6-foot guard, the choice to become a Viking came down to rewarding Augustana for their unwavering interest in him.
"Playing a lot of AAU basketball, I really appreciated Augustana coming to a lot of my games," Saugstad said. "They were the one school that really communicated with me a lot and kept sending me letters. I appreciated everything the coaches had said, and they seemed like they really cared and meant a lot of what they said."
During his senior season for the Tigers this year, Saugstad averaged 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game, as well as totaling 97 assists and 66 steals while leading Marshall to a third place finish in Class AAA. His head coach, Travis Carroll, feels that Saugstad has the right mix of skills and determination to succeed at the next level.
"I think it's going to be a good opportunity," Carroll said. "It's always a fun step for an athlete to leap from the high school level to the college level. Austin will definitely be one of those kids who will be working before he gets to that transition next year. It's always important to continue to work on your game before you show up on campus. It's also important to compete everyday in practice and Austin's going to be one of those guys who's going to get in their and compete on Day 1. I think they're really going to enjoy having Austin on their team."
Carroll, who made his head coaching debut with the Tigers this past season, said that Saugstad's leadership was invaluable to Marshall's success during the year.
"Austin was our leader on the floor and he was also our leader off of the floor," Carroll said. "We definitely had some transitions this year; you've got to have a lot of guys in the locker room that can handle transition, and Austin is definitely one of those guys who was able to handle that this season. He was able to help out his teammates everyday. He's one of those guys where it wasn't just during games that he was leading us. During practice he was leading us, during stretches, in the locker room too. In terms of leadership, he's a pretty special kid."
Saugstad, himself, sees his athleticism as something that will help smooth the transition from high school to college ball.
"I think I'll be able to keep up with the speed, it's a lot like AAU basketball," he said. "I know that the physicality and the tempo picks up, so that will take some time; but with some work I think I'll be able to keep up with them, play some solid defense and handle the ball."
Although Saugstad saw varsity time throughout his four years in high school, he knows that it will be extremely difficult to repeat the feat in college. Nevertheless Saugstad is determined to work hard and prove that he can make an impact on the college game.
"I was very fortunate to get some time as a freshman here in high school and that's probably a very different story in college," he said. "But I'm looking forward to the opportunity to earn some playing time and show them that I can play at the Division II level."
Augustana graduated just two seniors from a team that finished 22-9 overall and made its 11th appearance in the NCAA tournament. The Vikings also finished third in the NSIC with a 15-7 mark.
Saugstad was a second team all-area selection and all-Southwest Conference honoree this year and was appreciative of all the encouragement and support he received from friends, family, coaches and fans during his time as a Tiger.
"There have always been people that have helped me out, and I'm very thankful for that; my parents have always been there for me," Saugstad said. "Coaches who I've had throughout the years have always pushed me to be the best that I can be. There are so many people that you don't realize that have an impact on your career, I just want to say thanks to them because where I am today wouldn't be the same without them."