USD Coyotes basketball coach Eric Peterson revamping roster ahead of second year on the job
South Dakota has added five transfers in addition to three incoming freshmen.
VERMILLION — When the University of South Dakota fired Todd Lee as men's basketball coach after the 2021-22 season, much of the Coyote roster entered the transfer portal, only to eventually come back to USD after Eric Peterson was hired.
The Coyotes went 12-19 in Peterson's first season, and many of those same players jumped back in the portal, and this time they're not coming back. That's not necessarily a bad thing.
Peterson has been active in reshaping the roster with his own guys, as USD has added five transfers to the three incoming freshmen they'd already signed. That means it's going to be an almost entirely new team when the Coyotes take the floor for the 2023-24 season.
Peterson is excited. In an era where mid-major teams are going to constantly work under the threat of power conference teams poaching their rosters, it's only fair that they take advantage of the portal themselves, and Peterson has added some players that bring the Coyots much-needed size, depth, experience and athleticism.
"Our roster is complete," Peterson said. "When you take over a program, year one can go a lot of different ways. In year two, three and four that's when you get your type of guys that fit how you want to play. Last year we were probably the smallest team in the country, so our goal was to get bigger and longer and then add more athleticism. That usually helps your defense, and since the day I got hired that's all I've talked about is defending at a high level."
Here's a look at the five transfers USD added:
Kaleb Stewart, 6-3 guard, Louisiana Tech
A former Conference-USA all-freshman team selection, Stewart averaged 5.2 points for the Bulldogs as a sophomore. The soon-to-be 20-year-old was ranked the 11th best prep player in Texas as a high school senior. Peterson recruited Stewart while an assistant at Utah State. He'll have two years of eligibility.
"I thought he'd be a tremendous fit for us there," Peterson said. "Conference-USA was really good last year, so he's played at a high level. He's an elite defender who can play the point of off the ball."
Lahat Thioune, 6-10 big, Central Florida
Peterson coached Thioune at Utah, where the native of Senegal spent his first four seasons as a reliable backup post. Thioune moved on to UCF last year, playing in all 34 games for the Knights and starting 10. He averaged 2.6 points and 3.0 rebounds.
Thioune had entered the portal before his last season at Utah, but when Peterson saw his work ethic in the gym he convinced Craig Smith to keep him. Thioune called Peterson and inquired about coming to USD for his final season, committing without a visit.
"He's a rim protector who can really rebound," Peterson said. "He'll change our team quite a bit."
Bostyn Holt, 6-7 swing, Utah
Another former Ute, Holt didn't play much last year, scoring 47 points in 24 games off the bench. He was coming off an ACL injury suffered in 2021. Prior to that, Holt won a Division I JuCo national championship at Coffeyville. He'll have two years of eligibility at USD.
"He's another excellent defender that can play the one through the four," Peterson said. "He'll bring more rebounding to our team."
Jamil Safieddine, 6-6 guard, Chipola College
Averaged 10.1 points and 3.1 assists in two seasons at the JuCo level, going to the national tournament both years. Safieddine is another big guard that will improve USD's overall team size and help with the defensive system Peterson is stressing. He'll have two years of eligibility and can run the point or play on the wing.
"When I saw him play it just felt like he kept improving every single game he played," Peterson said.
Mayuom Buom, 6-10 center, Emporia State
Buom is coming off a year in which he helped Emporia State reach the Division II NCAA tournament for the first time in years. Playing under South Dakota native Craig Doty, Buom averaged 7.2 points on 64 percent shooting. He also converted 72 percent at the line and had 35 blocks in 32 games, earning all-MIAA defensive team honors. He'll have two years for the Yotes.
"He's a very good rim protector and we didn't really have that," Peterson said. "He's a good finisher, too, and spent the last three years in a good basketball culture."
Joining those five are incoming freshmen Isaac Bruns — brother of Paul Bruns, who with 8.9 points per game last year is USD's top returning scorer. Isaac won a state championship at Dakota Valley, and surpassed Paul on the state's all-time scoring list as a senior.
Shey Eberwein, a 6-5 scoring guard from Texas, and Jack Brack, a 6-9 big from Omaha, were both all-state selections as seniors.
They'll join a roster whose only remaining player from the Lee era is walk-on Max Burchill.
"Our team will look very different, which isn't a bad thing when you win 12 games," Peterson said, pointing out how low the Coyotes ranked in things like fast-break points, 3-point shooting, steals and blocks. "There's a lot of people who look at the portal and NIL like it's a bad thing, but it can be good and bad. Players can go up to a higher level and I get that. But we can get good players out of the portal. Our pool of players is bigger here. The higher up you go the fewer guys can play at that level. At the end of the day the most important thing to a lot of these kids is the opportunity to play meaningful minutes, and that's a huge selling point for us."