South Dakota School of Mines men's basketball junior Logan Elers and his teammates have been in the news lately for all of the right reasons.
Elers was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week Monday for the second time in three weeks. The Hardrockers also earned another league honor last week when redshirt freshman Mitchell Sueker was named Offensive Player of the Week.
Mines, 8-9 in league play, is sitting just on the outside of earning a conference playoff berth with five games to go. The Hardrockers are in ninth place, with the top eight teams of the 16-team league qualifying. They were just 5-17 in league play last season.
Mines coach Eric Glenn said for Elers to get the RMAC award twice in the last three weeks is no coincidence; winning gets you noticed and you don’t receive those honors when you are not a team.
“I think that gives notice to people that we are up and coming, and we’re starting to get noticed more with our recognition and play," Glenn said.
Last week in the road split against New Mexico Highlands and Colorado State-Pueblo, Elers had 10 rebounds in each game, averaging 14 points per outing. Two weeks ago, he grabbed 31 rebounds in two games, including tying a career-high 18 boards against New Mexico Highlands.
Elers said receiving the RMAC awards speak to how the team is doing and how it is playing.
"I’m just lucky that the team puts me in a situation to succeed," he said. "In Coach Glenn’s system, we try to work our hardest, and I have to do what I have to do for our team to win. If that is playing defense and rebounding, then that's what I will do."
A native of Rotorua, New Zealand, the 6-foot-7 Elers is averaging 12 points and 6.7 rebounds a game. He scored 13.1 points and grabbed 5.6 rebounds a game in his sophomore season. He's been a steady force since his arrival, although he called himself a typical freshman just trying to figure out the collegiate game.
"I was kind of running around with my head chopped off. The game was too fast for me and I really didn’t know what I was doing," he said. "Coming in here, what I can bring is I can play a little different as an international guy. The game is a little different internationally than it is here. But last year and this year I have been able to step up in a bigger role to take control of the game down low in the post, and I think I am a really good passer for my size. That is a little different than the stereotypical big guys here.”
A metallurgical engineering major, Elers came to South Dakota School of Mines for a chance at both worlds as a student athlete — basketball and academics. He said he could have studied engineering in New Zealand, but not while playing basketball.
A coach’s kid, born and bred, the son of Mark and Tracy Elers grew up playing basketball and was part of the New Zealand Age Group program. By his junior year of high school, he realized that he could further his education and continue to play the game that he loved.
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“To make this big leap, I wanted to make sure I could play at as high of a level as I can and get my degree. It is a huge adjustment. I miss my family all of the time, but it is my third year and I am getting used to what is happening," he said.
A true Hardrocker, Elers described his major as the engineering side of metal processing, coming straight from the mines, and from the rock, to the final product.
He said he is interested in the extraction side of it, basically the ore from the mine and processing it to different alloys. He couldn't have studied this at home.
"I was lucky enough to come here for my visits with Coach (Jason) Henry and Coach Glenn," he said. "I looked at all of the departments and thought that metallurgical engineering is interesting, and I stuck with it.”
Elers said that playing basketball after college is always an option, for now all he can do is just, "go with the flow."
If more basketball doesn’t end up happening after college, he'll just just follow his degree.
"And I have a great degree to follow. Either way, it will be a good thing," he said.
While he is some 7,500 miles from his homeland, Elers is beginning to look at the Black Hills as his second home.
"I am a big family and home guy, and Rapid City is similar size to back home in Rotorua," he said. "I’ve done a lot of mountain biking and stuff like that back home, and it is very similar here. It's a pretty area and very relaxing. I fell in love with the Hills."
The Hardrockers close the season with three of their final five games on the road, including Friday night at Chadron State and Saturday night at Metro State-Denver.
Their final push is all about making the playoffs.
"We started the season a little flat, but we’re all excited now. We have five games to go in the season, so we have to try to pick up one of those last playoff spots and keep our season alive," he said.