Video: Mike Daum High School Highlights
See the big-time scorer from a small-time town in action as a prep.
College basketball fans love the underdog, which is fitting since the top scorer on nearly one-third of the 68 teams in this year's NCAA Tournament was unranked by 247Sports coming out of high school.
Enter Mike Daum
, the leader of the pack.
The 6-foot-9 forward is the nation's No. 2 scorer (25.3), tied an NCAA season-high for most points scored in a game (51), leads the country in free throws made (250) and claimed the Summit League Men’s Basketball Player of the Year award - as just a redshirt sophomore. Yet despite all those lofty accomplishments, he was an unranked recruit coming out of Kimball (Neb.)
South Dakota State started the season at 1-6 overall and seemingly had no shot at making the big dance. But Daum willed the 18-6 Jackrabbits to nine wins in their last 11 games and has them on the edge of glory.
No 16 seed has ever knocked off a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Now, the kid they call "The Dauminator" will face fate and spearhead South Dakota State into a first round matchup Thursday against Gonzaga to try and pull off the biggest upset in the history of college basketball.
But the gritty kid from Nebraska is used to overcoming the odds.
His journey began in Kimball, a farming community of fewer than 3,000 people and only two square miles large. Imagine Jimmy Chitwood from the classic movie 'Hoosiers' shooting hoops outside in the deep country and dreaming big. A kid from a tiny dot on the map just trying to make it.
Daum's mom, Michele Hoppes, is a member of the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame as the Cowgirls' all-time leading rebounder and ranking in the top three for career points, among other categories.
She was the one who put the ball in Daum's hands from the age of 3. Hoppes spent countless hours and nights shooting in the gym throughout the years to mold the perfect assassin. It was all about instilling a competitive drive and strong work ethic into Daum and honing his craft, together.
"I was huge into making competitive games between Mike and his sister growing up," Hoppes told MaxPreps. "I was always doing hand-eye coordination games with balls of all sizes with Mike. Then we'd go over what I called 'The Flick.' We'd lay on our backs in the living room and flick the ball to each other using our wrist movement instead of the elbow. We'd focus on improving the backspin. I'd always rebound for him during our shooting drills over the years."
His bright future was set in motion. Daum's local legendary tales began in sixth grade when he dropped 44 points in a game. Daum was already Kimball's superstar by his sophomore year and led the team in points (16) and rebounds (six) per game. He immediately morphed into a lethal stretch-four with superior shooting ability for his ideal size and earned his first Division I offer from Wyoming that summer. His career was taking off.
Then everything suddenly came crashing down.
"He lacerated his liver in a freak accident right before the start of his junior season, and it was pretty serious," Hoppes told MaxPreps. "It was down to the hour before he lost his spleen to surgery. If he had surgery to remove it, he would have sat out the whole year. He was forced to miss the first half of the season due to the injury."
The determined Daum shot off the mat.
He returned and steered the 21-3 Longhorns to a fourth-place finish in the Nebraska Class C1 state playoffs and averaged 18 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks per game.
But for all his success, Daum was practically off the grid. He was unranked and held just one Division I offer heading into the crucial summer circuit before his senior year.
"I was not ranked at all in high school," Daum told MaxPreps. "I was from a small school in a small state and didn't get a lot of exposure. I didn't play on the main AAU circuit and wasn't seen by a lot of the coaches."
Then he shot himself into relevancy. Daum drained 12 3-pointers in one game for the Rocky Mountain Fever at the Las Vegas Classic in front of numerous college coaches. The brilliant shooting display sparked eight Division I schools to offer him that summer.
Something stood out about South Dakota State.
"After visiting South Dakota State we instantly knew that something felt right and he committed a month later," Hoppes told MaxPreps.See Dean Backes' MaxPreps feature of Mike Daum from 2014
Looks like he made the right choice.
Daum drove Kimball to the state quarterfinals in his senior campaign and averaged a state-high 25 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks per game while attaining All-State honors from the Lincoln Journal Star and Omaha World-Herald.
The grinder just kept exceeding everyone's expectations.
"I never thought he'd be this good," former Kimball head coach Bruce Tjosvold told MaxPreps. "He was great in high school, and I thought he'd be a contributor at the next level. This kid shot every day. He worked his butt off and did all the little things. Every year he just kept improving. Physically he wasn't where he is now. His ball-handling and even his shooting abilities have improved. This is all crazy to fathom. It's truly amazing to see what he's doing."
Daum posted a team-high 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds per game last season in spurring the Jackrabbits to a No. 12 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Ironically, the kid everybody overlooked in high school is now the one who will be front and center against Gonzaga.
"I never expected to have a breakout year like this," Daum told MaxPreps. "But we remember losing to Maryland last year in the first round. We can't settle for just being here. We must have a mindset that we will win. It would be an unbelievable feeling if we do. It's been a dream of mine since high school to make and win a game in the NCAA Tournament."
Daum isn't the only unheralded high school recruit trying to make a splash in the NCAA Tournament. Below, is a list of four other potent scorers leading Cinderella teams who were unranked by 247Sports coming out of high school.Keon Johnson, Winthrop
At just 5-foot-7, the electric guard averaged 18.2 points per game for Mansfield Senior (Ohio)
as a senior and was unranked by 247Sports. He's the nation's 10th-leading scorer (22.5) for No. 13 seed Winthrop.Marcus Marshall, Nevada
The 6-3 guard guided Johnson (St. Paul, Minn.)
to the Minnesota Class 3A state quarterfinals in his senior campaign and was unranked by 247Sports. He's averaging 19.8 points per game for No. 12 seed Nevada.Patrick Cole, North Carolina Central
The 6-5 guard averaged 11.2 points per game as a senior in helping Central (Newark, N.J.)
nab a New Jersey Group II state championship and was unranked by 247Sports. He's averaging 19.5 points per game this year for 16-seed North Carolina Central.Quinton Hooker, North Dakota
The 6-foot guard averaged 23 points per game as a senior and spearheaded Park Center (Brooklyn Park, Minn.)
to the Minnesota Class 4A state title game. He was unranked by 247Sports. Hooker leads No. 15 seed North Dakota with 19.1 points per game.