GRAND FORKS, N.D. — What a year it was in 2016-17 for the North Dakota Fighting Hawks in the Big Sky Conference.
Led by guards Quinton Hooker and Geno Crandall, the Hawks took home the Big Sky regular season and tournament titles, punching their first-ever ticket to the NCAA Tournament in the process. Despite an opening round loss to the Arizona Wildcats, the 2016-17 season was seen as a big success for the program on the national scene.
Fast forward to the 2017-18 season, and the team will look quite different than it did a year ago. Hooker and Corey Baldwin have graduated, while Carson Shanks has transferred to the Loyola (IL) Ramblers for his final year of eligibility.
On Friday morning, it was announced that another big piece from North Dakota’s run to the Big Dance would no longer be in the mix next season.
Forward Drick Bernstine announced his intentions to transfer from the program for his final year of eligibility and become a graduate transfer.
Bernstine announced his decision via Instagram on Friday.
After starting his career with the Denver Pioneers back in 2013-14, the Aurora, CO native transferred to North Dakota, where he played the last two seasons. In 2016-17, he averaged 8.3 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest, while shooting above 50% from the floor for the first time in his collegiate career (53.2%).
In the Fighting Hawks’ 100-82 loss to Arizona in the Round of 64 in the NCAA Tournament, the 6’8” Bernstine put forth his best game of the season in front of a national audience. He put up 20 points and 15 rebounds in the loss, becoming the 11th player to record 20 points and 15 rebounds in an NCAA Tournament game since 2011.
In a year where the transfer market is thin in terms of talented big men, Bernstine will be a highly coveted target for several high-major teams as programs look to fill out their rosters for the upcoming season.
Adding a player of Bernstine’s caliber, who can also help immediately, may be the missing link for some teams between a middle-of-the-pack finish and a conference title.
– T. Bennett