Diamond in the rough: Steele becomes star point guard for Jimmies
Getting Hannah Steele to Jamestown was the trick.
“I was pretty confident once we got her here, she’d be one of those so called diamonds in the rough. There was something about her that I was just drawn to,” Wiest said. “She’s a kid that’s maybe, what, 5-3, and her high school stats weren’t anything that would merit a lot of attention. A big thing was she played at a really good high school program that’s sent a lot of players to every level of college basketball.
“When we got her, we knew we were getting a special player and she’s certainly proved that beyond almost everyone’s expectations.”
Steele will soon become the first three-time All-American in program history. She’s led the 26-3 Jimmies to the NAIA national tournament for a third straight season, where they’re a No. 1 seed for the first time and play Roosevelt, Ind., on Thursday at 3:30 p.m., in the opening round.
Leaving the Twin Cities for rural North Dakota was the last thing on Steele’s mind, until she made the trip. In fact, Wiest beat out Mayville State and a few others for her services.
“I always thought of myself as someone that’d go to a huge city and do my thing there,” she said. “My dad was persistent about me visiting Jamestown. He told me I’d never know until I went, so reluctantly I went.”
It didn’t take long for her to realize there was more out here than corn and cows.
“I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, this doesn’t feel like the middle of nowhere.’ I felt comfortable. It felt like home,” she said. “And coach Wiest did a good job recruiting me.”
Her career began with major adversity when she suffered a torn ACL in her knee in the first half of the first game of her freshman season.
“She was going to play a pretty significant role for us. I remember many times during that season saying to coach (Dan) Hornung, ‘If only we had Hannah,’” Wiest recalled. “That was certainly a tough deal for her, but she’s certainly overcome it and went on to having an amazing career.”
Current coach Greg Ulland also had to recruit Steele, twice, he said. Once when he took over for Wiest four years ago, and then last year when Steele was on track to graduate, but still had one year of eligibility remaining.
“Those were probably my two best sell-jobs,” Ulland said. “It’s worked out pretty well. She’s going to go down as one of the best players to ever play here.”
The stats certainly back it up. She’s scored 1,352 points, holds the school record with 613 assists and has 154 steals. She’s a point guard in every sense of the word.
“I remember being like 21⁄2 years old and always dribbling in the kitchen and annoying my mom and she’d tell me to go in the basement where we had a cement floor,” Steele said. “My dad would harp on me to use my left hand because if I started then it wouldn’t be as hard later.”
Steele is always quick to deflect credit. She and seniors Carly Jensen and Morgan Mathison have won 101 games over the past four years.
“With the kinds of players coach Wiest and coach Ulland bring in, they tend to make you look pretty good,” Steele said. “It’s not like I’m out there alone. We’ve done all these great things together and I just feel really thankful to have been a part of it.”
Now the principal at St. John’s Academy, Wiest has enjoyed watching Steele, Jensen, Mathison and the program grow into an elite team in the NAIA.
“Greg’s just done a tremendous job and taken the program to a whole new level. I have a lot of pride, and so do a lot of other people, in watching what they’ve done as a program and the kinds of kids that represent the program,” Wiest said. “With girls like Hannah and Carly and Morgan and all the kids Greg has brought in, not only are they having a lot of success, they’re doing it the right way.”
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached
at (701) 952-8460 or firstname.lastname@example.org