Since he was little, Skyler Flatten had a wish to play college basketball.
“I got here with big expectations in my head, everyone thinks it’s always going to go as planned, but it never really does,” said Flatten.
Now at 23-years-old, he never thought his journey would turn out like this.
“It was a time where I didn’t want to play basketball at all, I just kind of thought it wasn’t for me,” said Flatten.
Flatten was a standout at Clark High School, averaging 25-points per game.
He never suffered any major setbacks while playing the game he loves.
“Being from Clark and never having to go through injuries like that, I came in here thinking that it was going to be smooth sailing,” said Flatten.
That was until stepping on the court at South Dakota State. Skyler suffered two seperate knee injuries since beginning his collegiate career in 2013. After several months of rehab and recovery, he thought his career was over.
“The injuries slowed me down a lot and I just didn’t really want to play anymore because it just hurt to play. It was a long grueling process, basically six to eight months of just straight rehabilitation stuff for my knees, trying to get my legs stronger. I really didn’t pick up a basketball that much during that time,” said Flatten.
But last year Skyler was granted one more wish, this time from the NCAA, a sixth year on the Jackrabbit roster.
“It’s a huge deal for our team, I think Skyler’s energy is a big thing for us. I think his ability to shoot the basketball, he’s a tremendous defender, but more than everything basketball wise, I think it’s his leadership, his character, what he means in this state, how he’s continued to develop and the jump he’s made each year,” said Head Coach T.J. Otzelberger.
“It means the world to mean, honestly I’m so blessed to get that opportunity back. I mean I’m having my best year by far, my confidence is sky high, I can just trust myself, trust my legs. It’s meant the world to me,” said Flatten.
Skyler’s perseverance to return is showing in the stat book as well. He’s played in every game this season and is averaging 16 points a game, which is third best on the team. He is also coming off a career high 36 points last Sunday in a win at Denver.
“He’s earned everything he’s gotten out of this. I just wish he could have a seventh year, because if he doubled his numbers again, he would average about 30-some a game next year.” said Otzelberger.
“It's been so worth it, it’s about time I start feeling this way. I always knew I could play like this, so it’s been great,” said Flatten.
Flatten and Coach Otzelberger also mentioned how the 6’10 guard is more like another coach on the roster, with the amount of hurdles he has had to overcome in his career.
“I mean I’ve been here for six years, I’ve been through it all: injuries, not playing as much, playing a lot. I’ve been through ups and downs. So I tell our young guys just to stick with it, don’t ever get down on yourself. With our older guys, I make sure I give them as positive feedback as much as possible. It’s never good to give negative feedback, so I mean I’m always there to help them out with things on and off the court. So I mean, I’m always there for my guys,” said Flatten.
“I think his level of passion and pride for this program is off the charts. You’re going into his sixth year, he’s been through a lot of the battles. A lot of injuries early in his career that prevented him from getting on the court. So now he’s finally been able to get into that rhythm, and he gives us another coach on the floor, another leader, and he’s invaluable,” added Otzelberger.
So Skyler is treasuring the wishes that have been granted, and is enjoying his last go to make an impact to SDSU basketball.
“No one wants to have injuries, but I have learned a lot from being hurt like that. I’m kind of glad that actually happened. I’ve grown up a lot since being that 17-year-old kid coming from Clark. Now I’m 23, and I’ve learned a bunch from being hurt and going through those trials and tribulations, so I’m kind of glad that happened,” said Flatten.
After college Skyler says that he hopes to play basketball professionally and potentially into a career in sports marketing because he says he loves making an impact in people’s lives.
South Dakota State takes the court next on Saturday as they host North Dakota at Frost Arena.