SPEARFISH | Senior leadership from a four-year starter is helping the Black Hills State University women's basketball team enjoy great success.
A key factor in the team's success is the senior leadership of Rachel Erickson according to BHSU head coach Mark Nore.
Erickson leads the team with 12.8 points per game.
"I feel I've taken a leadership position," Erickson said.
"Rachel has been a great leader for us," agreed Nore. "She is always ready for practice and has the team-first mentality. Rachel has improved very year."
Going into the final two weeks of the schedule, the Lady Yellow Jackets are 19-6 overall, with a 13-6 mark and third place in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference standings.
Erickson has made an impact since the start of her college career.
She played in 23 games as a true freshman, averaging 11.3 minutes per game and netting a season-best 10 points on three occasions.
In her sophomore season, Erickson played in 28 games making four starts. She tallied 7.1 points per game, including a season-high 18 points verse Regis University, one of her eight games scoring double digits that year.
Erickson led the team with 10.2 points per game in her junior year. She played in 26 games, making 19 starts and collected a career-high 25 points against Metro State University Denver.
Erickson scored in double digits 12 times and topped the team in assists with 53 and a 2.0 per game average. She earned Academic All-RMAC honor roll and was an RMAC Honorable Mention honoree.
During her prep years at Cheyenne (Wyo.) East High School, Erickson earned four letters each in basketball and soccer.
She was named second team All-State in soccer as a ninth grader and was first-team All-State in soccer in her sophomore, junior and senior years.
The Thunderbirds won state soccer titles in her junior and senior seasons. Erickson claimed Wyoming Gatorade Girls Soccer Player of the Year in 2013 and 2014.
Erickson was a four-year starter in basketball, helping the Thunderbirds to the Wyoming Class 4A championship game her junior and senior year. She was a 4A first-team All-State selection two of those years.
"Rachel was getting a lot of looks by colleges for both soccer and basketball," said Nore, who listed several reasons why he recruited her: "Her athleticism, her size (5-feet, 11 inches), her grit and she is a great student."
Erickson joins teammates Julia Seamans, Keely Bertram, Hannah Cass, Alyssia Martinez, Abby Switzer, Haley Schneider and Cortez Standing Bear on the All-Academic RMAC team for 2018.
"Rachel is a triple threat on the court," said Nore. “She has the green light, one of our best passers and is our go-to player. Rachel is the ultimate competitor and hates to lose."
"I've been coming to basketball camps at Black Hills State since I was young," said Erickson. I liked Coach Nore. Black Hills State has a great fan base. I fell in love with the team as family aspect," she said of her decision to attend BHSU.
In her sophomore season, the Lady Yellow Jackets upended Colorado State University-Pueblo in the first round of the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament. BHSU lost to West Texas A&M in the semifinal round.
Last season was a rough campaign as the team got off to a slow start, finishing 9-17.
"It's a completely different team," said Erickson. "Julia is gaining so much confidence. Keely is a big-time help."
BHSU has three games remaining in the regular season, hosting Colorado Mesa Saturday and visiting Chadron State Feb. 23 and Regis Feb. 24.
The top eight teams in the final RMAC standings qualify for the RMAC Shootout. The top four teams earn first-round home games. The four first-round winners advance to the semifinal round and the championship at the site of the highest seeded team.
"I don't want Saturday to be my last home game," said Erickson."It is such an advantage, getting a home tournament game. We have a huge home court advantage with a great crowd.
Erickson is majoring in science education and will graduate in December, but that may not see her no longer in the basketball scene.
"I want to get a graduate assistant position, and I am looking at coaching," she said.