Former Bison forward seeking new options
As the North Dakota State men’s basketball team hoisted the Summit League championship trophy in March, eyes were trained on the future. Players and fans already relished the Bison’s potential for the 2019-20 season. When NDSU downed Omaha in the title game, it only cemented the idea that the program was in for a repeat.
Central to this notion was the fact that all 14 players on NDSU’s roster would be returning. That was the case prior to Monday morning, when forward Deng Geu announced his intent to graduate transfer.
Geu’s departure follows an excellent junior campaign, one in which all the athletic tools and basketball acumen he had flashed came together. Geu averaged 9.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, both career bests. He ranked in the top 10 in the conference in points per 40 minutes, offensive rebounds, total rebounds and blocks.
Geu had featured for three seasons with the Bison following his redshirt year in 2015-16. Still, starting minutes never materialized for Geu. The forward was stuck behind Dylan Miller and Dexter Werner in his first two years in the rotation. This past season, Rocky Kreuser started all 35 games as NDSU’s stretch four. Geu’s lone start came in a 2016 meeting with Waldorf University, an NAIA team.
Geu averaged 18.3 minutes this past season, which was also a career mark. He and Kreuser split playing time, as the two never featured on the court at the same time. Still, Kreuser’s added length earned him the starting nod.
Bison head coach Dave Richman has been prone to use a similar rotation in the past. Miller started far more often than Werner due to his height advantage for the opening tip-off. Werner, though, played the lion’s share of the minutes, and the two never featured at the same time.
The situation isn’t an exact parallel to Geu and Kreuser’s rotation, however. Miller was never the caliber of player that Werner was, as evidenced by his inevitable transfer to Minnesota State Mankato. Geu and Kreuser, however, are far more similarly skilled.
Geu provided instant offense off the bench and quite often was called upon to spark the Bison. Such was his dynamism that it seemed at any moment he would command starting minutes. Still, he never supplanted Kreuser’s role, instead becoming NDSU’s sixth man.
It was the same dynamic ability that appeared to warrant a starting spot that kept him as the sixth man. Richman frequently called on Geu to turn the momentum in the Bison’s favor with quick baskets. Geu delivered at almost every turn and in doing so became one of the Summit League’s most efficient and opportunistic players. This success, however, only served to solidify his role.
Regardless, the writing was on the wall for Geu. Kreuser is also a rising senior, meaning that barring injury or a drastic alteration to the rotational scheme, Geu would have remained as the sixth man.
Looking further down the roster reveals further obstacles for any hopes Geu may have had at becoming a starter. Assuming 7-foot Dickinson product Jordan Meidinger is finally healthy after two injury plagued seasons, he and Kreuser may find themselves in a similar arrangement to Miller and Werner. Meidinger suffered a season ending ACL tear in November, and a leg injury stunted his development during his redshirt season a year prior.
Odell Wilson IV also appears to figure into the equation next season. The 6-foot-6-inch, 255-pound Wilson averaged 20.1 points per game as a high school senior and won two state titles at Minneapolis North.
Another intriguing prospect is in the hunt for playing time next season as well. Noah Christensen, currently a senior at Breckenridge High School, ought to command minutes as a stretch four next season. Christensen measures at 6-feet-8-inches, 180 pounds and aimed to add weight on the AAU circuit with the Minnesota Comets.
Christensen had an extensive list of suitors, with Nebraska, Creighton, South Dakota State and the University of North Dakota all showing interest. He shut down his recruiting early in favor of sticking with the local Bison. Christensen is currently the only committed player in NDSU’s 2019 recruiting class. With Geu’s vacated scholarship though, another may be added in the form of a high school senior or transfer.
Geu doesn’t quite fit into the same mold as some of the other players to transfer out of NDSU in recent seasons. It’s abundantly clear that Geu’s skills are at a Division I level. A team in the market for a rotational stretch four could find Geu as a tantalizing piece, seeing as how he still hasn’t reached his ceiling.
While many NDSU players have transferred under Richman’s tenure, Geu could be just the second to move to another Division I school. The other was Khy Kabellis, whose departure after his true sophomore season rocked the program. Kabellis moved to the University of the Pacific, where he finished off his four years of eligibility averaging 4.1 points per game.
Kabellis’ transfer showed that the grass may not always be greener on the other side. In Geu’s case, that may be especially true, seeing as how the side he is leaving is coming off a conference championship. Because he is a graduate transfer, Geu at least wouldn’t have to lose a year of eligibility as Kabellis did.
Any number of programs — be it Division I or not — could be in the market for Geu. If he’s seeking a starting role, that number may be reduced or even come from below the Division I ranks. Regardless, it’s clear that Deng Geu is betting on himself for his final year of eligibility.