North Dakota wants to be known for more than just playing good hockey and fighting the NCAA.
Making it into this year’s NCAA Tournament for the first time certainly will help. A win or two along the way could change the school's image forever.
"It's definitely going to be a big jump for our program, for our recruiting, for the student body,” star player Quinton Hooker said after watching Sunday's selection show. “I think this can a spur a tradition of making it to the tournament, and I definitely think this program is ready for that.”
Hooker and coach Brian Jones have played the leading roles in the Fighting Hawks’ rise.
Jones brought a long-term vision to a program that moved from Division II to Division I in 2008-09. He stuck to the plan, even as the basketball team was overshadowed by the stronger hockey program and a long, hard battle with the NCAA to keep its previous nickname, the Fighting Sioux..
Along the way, Jones landed Hooker _ the only player in school history to top 1,700 points, 400 rebounds, 400 assists and 150 steals. Not even future NBA player and coach Phil Jackson could put up those numbers.
But with a nationally-televised game set for Thursday night against second-seeded Arizona, Jones and Hooker believe the exposure can only help North Dakota expand its reach.
"Across the board, I think we have the talent to be good at a lot more than hockey here," Jones said.