Zimmer: Myah Selland, Paiton Burckhard among all-time greats at South Dakota State
The seniors were honored Saturday in their final home game at Frost Arena.
BROOKINGS — It's almost hard to remember watching the South Dakota State women's basketball team play without Myah Selland or Paiton Burckhard.
It's almost harder to picture them someday playing without them again.
Great players come and go, seniors move on every season, but it's not an overstatement to say that few players have impacted the Jackrabbit program — any program — the way Selland and Burckhard have.
The pair took the Frost Arena floor for the final time in their careers Saturday and led first-place SDSU to an 87-54 win over Omaha for their 16th-consecutive win.
It was not a particularly exciting or memorable game. The Mavericks did their best to stay close but were never a threat to win.
But it was an emotional game.
In the pregame Senior Day ceremony, where Selland and Burckhard were honored along with reserve forward Regan Nesheim and grad transfer guard Dru Gylten, Burckhard appeared to be fighting back tears before she even walked onto the floor. When Selland was introduced she hugged coach Aaron Johnston, took a few steps out towards center court with her family, and then the waterworks started for her, too.
"At the beginning of the day, we kept looking at each other like, 'Hold it together, hold it together,'" Burckhard would say later. "We knew it was gonna be that way."
Which is understandable. Burckhard and Selland have literally embodied South Dakota State basketball for the last half-decade. The finality of taking the Frost Arena floor for the last time would be overwhelming for anybody. This felt like the end of an era.
Think about what these two have accomplished, or more specifically, what the Jackrabbits have accomplished because of them.
SDSU recently clinched their third straight regular season Summit League title. They're 47-1 against the conference in that time. NCAA tournaments, a WNIT title, all-conference awards — the resumes of both players go on and on.
By the time her career ends, Burckhard will have played in more games than anyone in program history. She was a freshman coming off the bench when SDSU reached the Sweet 16 back in 2019 — Selland was a sophomore starter that year. The COVID-19 pandemic gave them both an extra year of eligibility, and they both took advantage.
Selland was so banged up in the front half of her career it at times looked like she might retire before graduating. But when healthy she's been perhaps the best player in the Summit League; certainly the most versatile.
She's second in school history in career points (she and Macy Miller, whom Selland won't quite catch, are the only players in school history to reach 2,000), fourth in rebounds and eighth in assists — the only Jackrabbit in the top-10 in all three categories. She's among the favorites for this year's Summit League player of the year award, which would be her second. She's played in three NCAA tournaments and won a WNIT championship (where she was named tournament MVP), and with Saturday's win over Omaha, the Jacks finish 80-10 all-time at Frost Arena during her career (and Selland was out injured for a few of those losses).
Burckhard has taken a back seat to Selland for much of her career, at least in the box scores, but she's quietly authored a career as one of the best frontcourt players in SDSU history, herself.
Incredibly durable, Burckhard has missed only one game in her five years as a regular. After playing a key bench role in the Sweet 16 season she's put together four consecutive years of double-figure scoring and twice been named first team All-Summit League. Burckhard is seventh on the Jacks' all-time scoring list and sixth in rebounds.
"Paiton and Myah have been Jackrabbits for a long time," Johnston said. "They've been a part of some of the great, great moments in our women's basketball history. Their individual numbers jump off the page. Their effort out on the floor, their consistency — it's just really remarkable. In a time where a lot of seniors don't stick around, it speaks to their dedication to this area."
Indeed, that Selland and Burckhard are South Dakotans matters. Women's basketball is special in South Dakota, and it has been since long before the rest of the country started to catch up. Selland, from Letcher, and Burckhard, from Aberdeen, joined a program that was already wildly successful, a beacon for women's college sports, and they made it better.
Both women have made it known that being a role model to young female athletes in their home state is important to them. Selland even launched a non-profit with teammate Tori Nelson — Her Turn — to help create athletic opportunities for girls sports.
"They're both very proud to be from South Dakota," Johnston said. "They're both very connected to their communities. You go out there after the game and they're gonna have autograph lines for quite awhile. They've been great for us and great for a lot of young people in the area to look up to and aspire to be like."
Said Burckhard: "Just looking out into the crowd (Saturday) I see so many familiar faces, people I've got to know over the past five years. People who have become like family to me, who, my freshman year I didn't even know. That's what makes it so special, the connections you get with people. That shows how close the Jackrabbit community is."
The pair went out with a bang. Burckhard had 18 points and Selland 16 to lead SDSU (23-5, 16-0 Summit) past the Mavericks (12-16, 7-10).
With four minutes left and the Jacks leading by almost 30, Johnston finally made the move, subbing in for his senior stars, and they left the Frost Arena court for the last time. Burckhard was first, followed by Selland, who got a big, long hug from her older sister, Shelby, a former Augustana standout who is now on the Jackrabbit coaching staff.
It's not over — not by a long shot. The Jacks are heavily favored to win the conference tournament, and have plans on doing some damage in the NCAA tournament if and when they get there. But for a day at least, it was appropriate — necessary, even — to honor what Myah Selland and Paiton Burckhard brought to Brookings.
"This place has meant so much to us for a long time," Selland said. "To wrap that up is hard — in a good way.
"It's cool we have three South Dakota girls sitting up here," she added, seated between Burckhard and Gylten, a Rapid City native. "That's special. Just playing in your home state — (the fans) love on us and we love on them. We keep saying it's special, but that's what it is."