FORESTBURG – Members of the Sanborn Central track team began shuffling into the gym Monday afternoon about the time Myah Selland was patiently completing a lengthy photo and interview session.
When the session ended, Selland left and came back a few minutes later in her workout gear. While waiting for track coach Corey Flatten to finish up with a few custodial issues involving equipment, she led the stretching for the team.
This was a collection of boys and girls and younger and older students, and if you wanted to know what the best girls high school basketball player in the state does on late March afternoons, this would have been the answer.
“People just kind of rally around her,” Sanborn Central/Woonsocket co-basketball coach Tim McCain said of Selland, the 2017 Argus Leader Girls Basketball Player of the Year. “They look for her. She’s been the guiding force for us the last three years since her sister graduated.”
MEET THE TEAM: Girls First and Second Five
Selland, a South Dakota State recruit who tallied 2,219 points, 964 rebounds and more than 500 assists for her high school career, hits all the marks as the kind of person the state wants to claim as its own.
Was she introduced to basketball in a barn loft on the family farm? Check. A great student? Yes, with a GPA of 4.09 and plenty of academic honors. Does she understand the charms of growing up in the sticks? Double-check.
“I love the small-town atmosphere and the small town-community,” said the 6-foot-1 Sanborn Central/Woonsocket senior. “To be able to represent that means a lot to me. I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.”
Making her mark
Selland, whose sister Shelby was also an Argus Leader First Five member and just completed her sophomore season at Augustana, began playing varsity basketball as a seventh-grader and was a starter by the time she was a ninth-grader. Being the focus of attention, be it from a defense intent on shutting her down or an intense home crowd trying to build her up, has been a challenge dealt with gracefully.
“She made others around her better with her passing ability,” McCain said. “The attention she drew created open shots for other people. Other players rallied around her and got themselves better.”
It was the other way around, though, if you ask Selland. She averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists as a senior, but she was the one rallying around the rest of them.
“We had a lot of fun this year,” she said. “Obviously we had a pretty successful season, but if you look past that, this was a great bunch of girls. We got along. We had fun with each other at practice, on the bus, in the locker room. It was something that was not very easy to say goodbye to. It was pretty special and something I’m going to remember a long time.”
It became apparent during the interview that it’s impossible for Selland to talk about those teammates without smiling. She was asked to explain that if she could. What made this the kind of team that so consistently caused this kind of reaction?
She then summoned her memories of “Gibby.”
“One year for the state tournament we bought a fish,” she began. “We kept the fish for almost a year. When our pet fish died, it was traumatic for all of us. Those are the kinds of memories I’m going to remember more than anything.”
But what about the fish?
“It was a betta fish,” she continued. “We named him Gibby. He had a good life. We kept him in a gallon ice cream bucket during that state tournament all weekend. Then we found him a good home when we got back.”
Loving the game
The Sellands have a barn loft on the farm where indoor basketball takes place year-round. Shelby and Myah would play up there as youngsters, welcoming cousins, neighbors and friends in for pickup games. Sometimes they still do. There were no coaches barking about defense and rebounding, no wind sprints and no whistles in the loft.
It was a fine way to be introduced to basketball. Not unlike how their grandfather learned on the way to playing at Letcher High School or how their father picked it up on the way to Woonsocket.
“We’ve been playing in the loft as long as I can remember,” Selland said. “It was never like ‘You have to play basketball because we played basketball.’ We played basketball for fun in the loft. On our Christmas Eves sometimes we’ll still bundle up and play some family basketball.”
Selland played on five state tournament teams, losing to Sully Buttes in the Class B final this year while putting together a do-everything kind of a season. She began making her first major impact as a freshman while still claiming her sister as a teammate. With the height and the skill level to play several spots on the court – she often brought the ball up the court for the Blackhawks – she also made an impression on college coaches.
“Everything about her background fits in well for us in Brookings and at SDSU,” said Jackrabbits coach Aaron Johnston. “She wants to stay close to home and be connected with her family; those things are very important to her and they fit into our plan really well. She’s a little on the quiet side, but I love the fact that she’s competitive – she’s a driven person. She’s not brash, she doesn’t need to be the center of attention, but she’s very competitive. That’s going to fit in well with our roster, too.”
It’s good when a center of attention gains that distinction without seeking it. And it’s even better when that center can also play point guard and power forward. It has all been about supplying whatever it takes. That’s not necessarily something that small-school players do best, but it’s definitely what the best small-school players do.
“My summer coach Kenny Vermillion said something that’s always stuck with me: Everybody has to come from somewhere,” Selland said. “I thought that was a pretty neat quote. I don’t think it matters where you come from. You put the time in, you put the effort in, you can be the best at anything you want to be.”
Follow Mick Garry on Twitter at @MickGarry .
ABOUT MYAH SELLAND
School/year: Sanborn Central, senior
Position/Height: Guard/forward/center, 6-1
College choice: SDSU
2016-17 stats: Averaged 20.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game while shooting nearly 60 percent from the field.
Highlights: Selland finished with more than 2,000 points, nearly 1,000 rebounds and more than 500 assists for her career while playing in five state tournaments and maintaining a 4.09 GPA. Her sister Shelby is a starter at Augustana.