See more of the story

Thank you for checking out Basketball Across Minnesota, my weekly look at some of the state's top hoops stories, from preps to pros. — Marcus Fuller

When Kelsey Steinhagen applied to be part of the Gophers men's basketball staff two years ago, she wasn't thinking about setting a precedent.

There was no woman with coaching experience sitting on a Big Ten men's basketball team's bench, no woman in anything more than an administrative role, until she was hired for the quality control position on Ben Johnson's first staff.

"She's been great," Johnson said. "You want to have balance and people who are good at what they do, whether that's an all-male staff or an inclusive staff incorporating females in different coaching roles. I just wanted to put together the best staff that was going to help myself get better."

Steinhagen had an extensive assistant coaching background in women's basketball with eight seasons at the Division III level at Dubuque College in Iowa and Menlo College in California, including time spent as an associate head coach.

The U's quality control position (also held by ex-Gophers star Rachel Banham with Lindsay Whalen's women's team) includes scouting and helping Johnson and his assistants with game preparation, along with recruiting and administrative duties.

A 6-2 former Wisconsin-Stout All-America, Steinhagen first got introduced to coaching while spending part of her senior year working at Menomonie High School. An apparel design major, she was drawn to the coaching profession after her professional playing career in Australia.

After nearly a decade trying to make her way up from the lower level, Steinhagen could only dream of being on a Division I staff, let alone in the Big Ten.

"I'm thankful to be given this opportunity," Steinhagen said. "I feel like I've learned a lot the past couple years being this was my first time with men's basketball and being at this high of a level. You do a lot of the same things, but it's on a grander scale."

On game days, Steinhagen spends a lot of time making sure recruiting visits go as seamlessly as possible. On the coaching side, she tracks opponents' match-ups and play calls, and assists Johnson with notes he put together before the game.

Before practice starts, she's the only woman in the Gophers conference room meeting with Johnson, assistants Dave Thorson, Marcus Jenkins and Jason Kemp, director of basketball operations Ryan Livingston and video coordinator Josh Adel.

"It's pretty cool to be a part of that," Steinhagen said. "Being able to interact with the [players] every day is also cool because we have great guys. That's something I really liked about coaching on the women's side is being on the court every day, building those relationships. So, I'm still able to do that even though I'm not technically on the court coaching. I'm able to do that and still participate in different ways."

A Clinton, Wis., native, she was known as Kelsey Duoss while winning a Wisconsin state championship in high school in 2003. Her connection with the Gophers comes from her husband, Chet, who graduated from the U. He was a scout team player when Lindsay Whalen played for the Gophers in the early 2000s. And Steinhagen's mother-in-law, Janet Rogde, was a member of the 1976-77 Gophers basketball team.

"When my husband and I wanted to move back to the Midwest, I started applying for jobs," Steinhagen said. "This one happened to be available, so I said, 'Why not?' And here I am."

Times have changed with women having a larger presence in men's basketball. Tamara Moore, a former Lynx player, was the only women's head coach for a men's college hoops team in the U.S. when she was hired at Mesabi Range College in Minnesota two years ago.

The first woman full-time NBA assistant was hired in 2001, but there were as many as 11 women assistants in the league in 2019-20.

There was only one female assistant on a Division I men's basketball staff in 2018-19. But most recently, there were five female assistants on D-I men's squads and 15 total across all three divisions in 2021-22, per NCAA data.

Steinhagen and Georgia video coordinator Julie Danielson, a former Wisconsin grad manager, are the only women with non-administrative job titles in men's basketball in the six major D-I conferences. But five women have director of operations positions at that level.

"There's a lot more opportunities for women to get involved in different ways, even if you don't see yourself as a coach," Steinhagen said. "You can still be involved with sports and make an impact on players."

Fuller's Five ballers

Bradley Cimperman, Hamline

The sophomore from Woodbury set a school record Monday with 51 points on 16-for-28 field goals, including 8-for-15 from three and 11-for-12 at the foul line. The exclamation point in the win vs. Gustavus came in the final seconds with a pump fake, turnaround three.

Dawson Garcia, Gophers

The 6-11 North Carolina transfer and former Prior Lake star tied his career-high with 28 points in last week's upset at Ohio State, which was the first Big Ten win this season for the Gophers.

Kole Hanson, Holy Family

The junior guard plays on the same team as 6-11 Butler recruit Boden Kapke, but he leads the team in scoring and blew up for 44 points in Monday's win vs. Minnehaha Academy.

Gianna Kneepkens, Utah

The Duluth native and sophomore guard was big for the Utes with 20 points and a team-high seven rebounds in last week's 80-79 win against No. 14 Arizona to remain tied at the top of the Pac-12 standings, leading into Friday's matchup at No. 4 Stanford.

Alyssa Ustby, North Carolina

The junior from Rochester recorded a career-high 18 rebounds in North Carolina's win against rival No. 11 North Carolina State last week. She leads the team with 9.3 rebounds a game.

Statistically speaking

5,000 Seating capacity for men's and women's basketball projected for the new arena plans St. Thomas announced Tuesday after receiving a $75 million donation.

2,000 Career points mark reached this month by Minnehaha Academy's Addi Mack, Stillwater's Max Shikenjanski, Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton's Owen Leach, Grand Rapids' Taryn Hamling and Lyle-Pacelli's Buay Koak.

19.2 Points per game in the playoffs (including during four WNBA title runs) for Lynx legend Maya Moore, who officially retired from basketball this week.

13 Wins this season with an undefeated record for Rochester Community & Technical College women, ranked as the No. 1 junior college team in the nation for Division III.

Basketball Across Minnesota will be published weekly on Don't be a stranger on Twitter after reading, as chatting about these stories makes them even more fun to share. Thanks, Marcus (@Marcus_R_Fuller on Twitter)