Norse land highly coveted D2 shooting guard

0
948

Dilling one of nation’s top long-range shooters and scorers last season

As free agency, er, sorry…the (ahem) transfer portal spins round and round, NKU head coach Darrin Horn and his staff spun with it, continually in motion while trying to find that one last piece to fill the 2024-25 season puzzle. In short…they got their guy, and he’s a fellow “Northern” guy, so he should fit right in.   

As was formally announced by Northern Kentucky University Athletics this past week, the Norse men’s basketball program has officially signed graduate transfer shooting guard Josh Dilling, a highly sought-after prospect from Division II’s Northern State University. The 6-4 standout athlete will have one season of eligibility to spend in Highland Heights.

Though the Norse’s signing class this cycle through appears small in numbers, nobody in-house is overly concerned…see, they could afford to be ultra-selective in who they brought in as they (unexpectedly) returned senior wing Trey Robinson for one more season and only lost one player (senior Marques Warrick) to the transfer portal while other programs have averaged losing 3-5 players. 

And besides, this signing class appears to pack considerable punch on the surface. Dilling joins D-II transfer point guard Dan Gherezgher (Michigan Tech) and prep school 7-footer Paulius Rapolis, the Lithuanian tower from the famed IMG Academy in Florida. The three are expected to get substantial playing time this season if things shake out as they should.

Dilling’s route to NKU has been a circuitous route, as he has previously played at three schools – NSU, Queens University and Minnesota Crookston – prior to hitting the D1 lotto after his last season in Aberdeen, SD. While his domestic passport may have lots of ink in it now, it has been worth it and clearly well-earned. 

Using each school to methodically get better and better, Dilling found that his ceiling kept getting higher and higher until a slew of D1 schools came knocking down his door after an incredible season at Northern State in which he averaged 18.7 points, 4.5 boards and 4.3 assists per game on his way to Second Team All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference honors. 

Of note, the Oshkosh, WI native shot 52.3% from the field, 46.1% from behind the arc and 80.3% from the charity stripe while sporting an impressive 2:1 assist-to-turnover ratio as an uber-reliable ball-handler in the Wolves offense.

In the recent press release from NKU Athletics, Horn gushed over what Dilling can bring to the squad next season:

“Josh is a terrific fit for us on the perimeter,” he said. “His efficiency in pick-and-roll is outstanding, which is essential in our up-tempo flow style of play. In addition, his 71 made three-pointers at 46 percent addresses our need for shot making on the perimeter. He has also been a leader of great character everywhere he has been…Norse Nation will love him!” 

OK, so here’s the thing… Anybody who knows me knows I love to talk and I love to write. But writing anything further on this athlete may not fully due him justice, as his story is a very unique one, and he tells is so well. In this exclusive long-form interview with HoriZone Roundtable, Dilling had the chance to not just make passing comments on going from a campus of 3,000 students in South Dakota to a campus of 13,000 in the Greater Cincinnati Metro Area – he had a chance to tell his full story without a filter. 

Pour a cup of coffee and kick back, you’re going to want to meet NKU’s newest long-range threat for yourself…

Larry Wical (LW):  Man, you’ve had a crazy journey that ultimately led to you stepping foot on a Division I campus at a basketball-rich school. Spill the beans, what did this whole process look like starting off as a high school player looking to play college hoops?

Josh Dilling (JD):  My recruiting journey in high school was definitely a little unconventional. Our season ended a week before Covid-19 officially shut everything down. I had received a scholarship offer to play at William Jewell College (D2) before Christmas break. I had also been in touch with a couple D3 schools in the Wisconsin area like St. Norbert’s and UW-Platteville. There was one NAIA school (Bethany College) that also gave me an offer.

Being recruited in general was something I always wanted growing up, being able to play basketball at the college level was a goal and dream of mine. Some of the coaches that recruited me showed up to a lot of high school games, called/texted often. The coaches would talk about things like getting a player they could trust, someone who could lead the team, and someone who had high upside. They also mentioned I engaged the whole team and was able to highlight their talents and skills. That is what they saw in me. My family and I always described the recruiting process throughout high school as a very cool experience. Although I felt that I went under the radar throughout, but flash forward to now it has been completely worth it and a journey I would never change. It truly made me the player I am today.

I ended up getting a call one morning in the middle of Covid at home from the University of Minnesota-Crookston. They said they had been watching me since my junior year. I ended up getting an offer later that afternoon by head coach Dan Weisse. About a week or two later I committed there seeing that I had the chance to play at the D2 level in a solid conference (NSIC).

LW:  You worked the system and will end up playing at the level every high school kid dreams of – the Transfer Portal is a pretty busy (and often messy) place to live and visit…tell me about your experience with it.

JD:  I have definitely had the experience of being in the transfer portal a couple of times. I enjoyed my freshman year over at Minnesota-Crookston. It was the Covid season so we only played 16 games total, I was fortunate enough to start for the last 12 of them. We did not have the best season team-wise, and as the season came to an end we had some guys who decided to transfer, others whose scholarships were not renewed. Basically, we had a ton of roster turnover and unknowns. There were question marks for what the program would look like that next year.

My family and I decided to enter the transfer portal and ended up committing to Queens University of Charlotte down in North Carolina. I really enjoyed that year as well, learned a ton of little things, saw some growth with not only my game but my body as well. We ended up making it to the (D2) Sweet 16 that year in the NCAA Tournament. After the season ended our coach (Bart Lundy), left for UW-Milwaukee and just a month or two later Queens University of Charlotte decided that they were going to make the transition from D2 to D1.

Again, there was a lot of change, and I loved competing at the high D2 level. I had a couple meetings to see what the next three years would look like with all the changes going on and ultimately decided on June 10th (which is way late) to enter the transfer portal again in hopes of finding a school closer to home that would compete at that really high D2 level.

I reached out to Northern State about the possibility of coming there, and fortunately they had interest back.  We were familiar with each other from my time at Minnesota-Crookston. I played two years at Northern State, the first year we won the regular season conference championship and earned a #2 Seed in the regional tournament. This past year did not go as well record-wise. Deciding to transfer from Northern State was an extremely tough decision to make. I just really fell in love with the place and representing the Wolves.

Ultimately, the amount of team members that were leaving – mixed with wanting to make the most of my last year of eligibility – impacted my final decision. I decided to once again enter the transfer portal. This journey has really allowed me to grow not only as a player but as an individual as well.

LW:  How did you end up getting noticed and ultimately signing with NKU?  Did you get to tour Truist Arena and see how massive it is compared to your previous home arenas?

JD:  To be honest at first I did not know much about Northern Kentucky besides their conference and their recent success. When I entered the transfer portal NKU was the first team to offer, and really was the first to even reach out. They wanted me right from the start – that alone said a lot. I feel as though I already have a great relationship with the coaches and I have not even arrived on campus.

In terms of what attracted me to NKU, well that would be a lot of things. How professional their program is, their culture, the guys wanting to stay and play and the support their program are a few things that resonated with me to just name a few. The location, being closer to home and having the rural/city vibe with Cincinnati really was attractive to me also.

The facilities, campus, and the university itself is impressive. I was also lucky enough to meet most of the team, and can already tell they are a great group of talented, hard-working guys.

Lastly and this is an extremely important piece, their expertise on developing players will help me prepare for not only my last year with NKU, but also when I play pro ball. Having the opportunity to work with Coach Tyler (Janota), to go through his sports performance plan, is also a game-changing opportunity. This program is built to guide me and help me grow to be the best I can be for NKU. I believe in this place, the staff and this program. And yes, I was able to also see Truist Arena, and to be honest I think my first words were, “Wow!”

Everything about NKU excites me and I am grateful for this opportunity, and can’t wait to help my team and coaches make an impact this next season.

LW:  How long will the Norse program have you?

JD:  I have one year of eligibility left, I am a Grad transfer.

LW:  In your words, what is NKU getting from Josh Dilling as a person, student and player?

JD:  NKU is getting a guy who is going to dive head first into their program with a positive attitude and an extremely great work ethic. I have been described as a team-oriented, mature leader. I will be contributing to the culture that has been set forth by Coach Horn and Coach Haut and the whole coaching staff. I am excited to learn, teach and make an impact for Norse this season.

To say I am hungry for a championship would be an understatement, and together we want to bring this to our community, its fans and supporters. In terms of on the court, I am a guy who can play multiple positions. I can be an on and off ball guy. I will be someone who will do whatever it takes to make sure NKU gets a win.

LW:  Coach Horn is well known for saying he targets prospects who want to play pro ball one day.  Are you going to be “Him”?

JD:  In playing pro, I will fit right in with what Coach Horn is saying, I want to play basketball until the ball stops bouncing. That would be the goal after my last year, I love everything about this sport and will work to be the best I can be for NKU and for my pro career after.

LW:  It sounds like a match made in heaven – you and NKU seem to fit right up.  What other schools were courting your services?

JD:  The D1 programs who reached out with interest (inquiries)…

Oral Roberts University, University of Idaho, Montana State University, Valparaiso, University of Evansville, Samford, Marshall, Appalachian State, Longwood, UW-Green Bay, Illinois State, Winthrop, Sacramento State, Furman, Le Moyne College, Western Carolina, Western Illinois, Robert Morris, Louisiana Tech, Howard, University of Montana, St. Thomas University, IUPUI, SIUE-Edwardsville, Bowling Green, Seattle University, Incarnate Word, Coastal Carolina, UNC-Wilmington, Chattanooga, Fairleigh Dickinson, Sam Houston State, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Marist, Oakland, Georgia Southern, Weber State, Saint Louis, Abilene Christian, University of South Dakota, University of Illinois-Chicago, Tarleton State, Houston Christian, New Hampshire and Binghamton.

D1 Schools that made firm offers:

NKU

Montana State University

Valparaiso University

Winthrop University

University of Idaho

Robert Morris University

University of Incarnate Word

Longwood University and University of Evansville basically gave me an offer but I was going to officially get it on the visit if I were to have gone.

LW:  If you didn’t sign with NKU, where do you think you would have landed?

JD:  “I was considering a few different options…Valparaiso University (was officially #2), Samford University, Illinois State University and University of Evansville”

Dilling had a lot of high-level interest from a lot of well-established programs with rich history. Perhaps ranking No. 6 in the nation in 3-point shooting and Top 50 in scoring average opened lots of big doors along the way. It’s safe to say, chances are if he kept his recruitment open longer Dilling would have continued to garner looks from more programs in “bigger” name conferences. 

The fact of the matter is, Dilling is now a Norse, and Horn’s team just got a little more potent and a little more experienced heading into next season, in a Horizon League that continues to get stronger every year. This team, and this conference, will be one to watch in 2024-25. Bet that. 

Leave a Reply