North Dakota Forward Favors Pac-10 Foes

Lady luck isn't always with the Las Vegas gamblers, but the stars were definitely aligned for Austin Dufault in that city. While he played at the Reebok tournament there, coaches from Arizona State, Washington State, and other schools discovered this hidden gem by chance. Dufault has recently lined up a visit with the Sun Devils and talked to us about his recruitment with ASU.

The 6-8 205 Austin Dufault hails from Killdeer, N.D. located in the western part of the state, about 100 miles from the capitol Bismarck. Things are usually quite mellow in this small town, but the forward's life has taken an exciting turn in the last three weeks.

"My coach got some calls from some schools before we started playing in all the (AAU) tournaments," said Dufault. "These were smaller schools like Richmond, Lafayette, Evansville…in the middle of July I got an offer from North Dakota State and I was excited because they're close to home and that was the biggest school that offered me until then (he also had an offer from Montana State at that time)…I never thought I would get offers from the Pac-10 and have a Big Ten school ask to look at my tapes."

Dufault plays for ECI West Gold, who played in finals of the "A" bracket of the Reebok tournament in Las Vegas. "During warm-ups I saw coaches walking around and you could see their school name on their shirts. I was thinking ‘wow this is kind of crazy having all these coaches here.' But once I started playing, I really didn't pay attention to that."

Truth of the matter is that those coaches were at the gym waiting to see the final of the open bracket of the same tournament. While doing that, they stumbled on Dufault who was playing in his third game that day. "I was much better in the first two games," he claimed. "I was pretty tired in that third game. I had 17 points, 8 rebounds, and two blocks but we lost to the Oklahoma Magic…it's kinda weird how all these coaches saw me in my worst game that day. But we did play against very good competition, so maybe that's why they were impressed."

This was the last AAU game that Dufault was going to play in the tournament circuit. It also marked the beginning of a recruiting onslaught he never believed could have happen.

"After we came back home my AAU coach was telling me about all these schools like Arizona State, Colorado, Washington State that were calling me," he recalled. "I had an open gym (session) and coaches from those schools and a lot of others came to see me and they started offering me." In fact ASU and Washington State extended doffers after watching him during that session.

Those offers would seem more prestigious than the North Dakota State one, but Dufault isn't so quick to dismiss his hometown school. "Those schools are located in big time conferences, so I was excited to hear from them and get scholarship offers," he explained. "But I was just as excited to get an offer from NDSU, because they're close to home and I never thought I would get an offer from them. I know all those schools are very different from each other, but they're also equally exciting."

Even though he hasn't set foot in Tempe yet, Dufault already has a favorable impression of the Sun Devils, who will be his first official visit during the recruiting season. "They're the biggest university in the country, and they have a great coaching staff," he noted. "A lot of coaches I talked to said that Herb Sendek is one of the best in the nation. It sounds like all the players there really get along with the coaches. So I'm looking forward meeting all of them, going to see a football game, and seeing the campus."

Dufault, who also plays football for his high school, said that his schedule is making it hard for him to line up a trip to Washington State, but he anticipates visiting them in October. He added that schools like Colorado and Minnesota haven't offered him yet and it's unlikely that he would visit them before an offer was on the table. "If they did offer, I would definitely have to consider visiting there."

Even with all the attention he's getting, and the desire to sign in November and not have his recruiting be a distraction his senior year, Dufault stated that he's not in a rush to commit. "I know the first visit will make a big impression, but I want to visit other schools and see where they stand too," he commented. "I'm pretty wide open anyway and don't have a favorite school...I do like Arizona State and Washington State the most and they're equal with each other."

Dufault remarked that he can play the 2, 3, or 4 positions the floor thanks to his versatility. "I handle the ball pretty well for a player my size," he said. "I can bring the ball up the court and also rebound. I used to play point guard when I was little. I'm a good shooter facing the basket, but I need to work on my post-up game. I play a 2 or a 3, so I never really had to post a lot. I'm gonna work a lot on that this summer, and use that in my senior year."

He said that ASU is looking at him at either forward spot, and added that his responsibilities at any of those spots would include both forward roles. "It's more of a combo-forward, but probably more a four spot."

When looking at the various schools he may end up with, Dufault is very cognizant of his prospective environment. "I wanna go somewhere I feel so comfortable, that I'll enjoy my four years so much that I won't wanna come back (laughs)," he said. "It has to be a place where I don't have second thoughts about it and just love where I'm at."

With a 26 score on his ACT and a 3.8 GPA Dufault is academically qualified.

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