Elsie Aslesen started her college basketball career at Concordia University in Nebraska. During her two years there, Aslesen started in three games. A big reason why the Elk Point-Jefferson graduate didn’t see more time on the hardwood was her strength.
“I came into Concordia as a tall string bean. I wasn’t strong at all,” she said. “One of the reasons I didn’t get to play my first couple of years is I wasn’t strong enough to play post defense.”
That all changed when Aslesen transferred to Dakota State University in Madison for the 2020-21 campaign.
“I worked with our strength coach, Stephen Vassalotti, and got tips from Coach David Moe,” Aslesen said. “It helped me develop into a defensive player. It’s something I really take pride in.”
All that work in the weight room and in practice paid off for Aslesen this past season as she was recently named the NSAA Defensive Player of the Year.
“It was my goal at the start of the summer,” Aslesen said. “That propelled me through this summer. Our strength workouts and conditioning were really big for me. Defense is all about effort and strength, being able to have the strength to play post defense. I really struggled with that during my first couple years of college basketball. I wasn’t strong enough. It’s a nice recognition. It’s a good symbol of all my hard work paying off.”
The senior post player made it difficult for any opposing team to score inside against the Trojans this past season. Aslesen finished the season with 72 blocks and 189 defensive rebounds.
Earning Defensive Player of the Year is just the latest accolade that Aslesen has garnered since transferring to DSU. The senior post player has earned NSAA All-Conference honors three times and was named Newcomer of the Year in 2020-21 after transferring from Concordia.
Earlier this season, Aslesen added another bullet point to her resume. She eclipsed the 1,000-point milestone in three seasons as a member of the DSU basketball program.
“I didn’t get to score 1,000 points in high school,” Aslesen said. “The fact that I came to DSU and did it in three years is really exciting for me. It’s proof for me that all my hard work has paid off. It’s an honor. It’s a nice recognition for myself and the work that I have put in. My teammates have made that possible. The coaches have helped me grow as a player. Our strength coach, Stephen Vassalotti, has helped me a lot.”
A number of factors led Aslesen to transfer to DSU following her sophomore season at Concordia. Her family moved to Howard, making her drive from the Concordia campus over four hours long. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and Aslesen felt she needed to be closer to home. When she was open to transferring, DSU seemed like a perfect fit.
“They were super welcoming,” Aslesen said. “They made me super excited to play basketball. Basketball has been fun here at DSU. The coaches care about us as people. There have been so many times that Coach Moe has checked in on me and made sure that everything was going well. He genuinely cares about us. They understand basketball is supposed to be fun. They don’t take everything so seriously all the time and understand that there is room to enjoy the game.” Aslesen and the Trojans qualified for the NAIA National Women’s Basketball Tournament for a third straight year and will open the tournament on Tuesday in Wichita, Kan., against Morningside. The two teams squared off earlier this season with Morningside defeating DSU 81-67. In what could be her final games as a member of the DSU basketball team, Aslesen said that she has enjoyed every moment along the way.
“It’s just been fun playing basketball,” Aslesen said. “I’ve made awesome connections with my teammates. I know that they are going to be lifelong friends. I’ve been able to do something I love with the people that I love. I’ve really enjoyed my team here.”