Dakota Wesleyan University ’98
Emporia State University ’04
The Dakota Wesleyan University women’s basketball team recently completed arguably one of their most successful seasons under Head Coach Jason Christensen after finishing 32-6 overall and 16-4 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference. The 32 victories is tied for the most wins in program history.
Christensen led the Tigers to the first team championship in school history with an 82-59 victory of Concordia University to cap off the record-setting season. Senior Ashley Bray was named All-American First Team, while twin sister Amber Bray was named All-American Honorable Mention. For his efforts coach, Christensen was named the Coach of the Year in the NAIA.
Among the records broken last season, points per game was the longest-standing record to be broken. The 2017-18 team averaged 80.4 points per game, while the 1990-91 team averaged 79.1 points. In all, the 2017-18 team broke or tied 16 DWU women's basketball team records.
The previous season, the Tigers received their first NAIA Division II Coaches’ Top-25 Ranking as the No. 1 team in the country since the 2003-04 season. One of the top highlights of the season came on Feb. 12, as DWU snapped Concordia University’s 26-game winning streak at the Corn Palace. The Tigers would meet the Bulldogs again in the GPAC Championship game, but lost in overtime. It was the second-straight season the Tigers finished runner-up in the GPAC.
Christensen currently ranks first on the DWU women’s basketball all-time wins list with an overall record of 128-97 and is the longest tenured coach currently at DWU. He surpassed DWU great, Kevin Lein, with his victory against Grace College on Dec. 21, 2016 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
The 2016-17 Tigers set five new records – field-goal accuracy (45.2%), free throws (578), free-throw accuracy (79.4%), 3-point field goals (272) and opponent-point average (60.9). Christensen also had Ashley Bray named to the All-NAIA Second Team and Erica Herrold named to the All-NAIA Honorable Mention Team. He also had six players named to the All-GPAC Team as Ashley Bray and Erica Herrold were named All-GPAC First Team, Rylie Osthus All-GPAC Second Team and Amber Bray, Kristin Sabers and Sarah Carr named All-GPAC Honorable Mention. Six members were also named NAIA Scholar-Athletes.
The 2015-16 Tigers brought about a return to the glory years with an unexpected run to the national quarterfinals. After being picked to finish eighth in the GPAC and losing potential starting point guard Chesney Nagel prior to the first game to a season-ending injury, Christensen led a group of Tigers without a senior on the squad to a tie for second place in the league and a runner-up finish in the GPAC postseason tournament.
DWU entered the NAIA Women's Division II National Tournament for the first time in 12 years and promptly marched through its first two opponents. DWU's win over Haskell Indian Nations in the first round was the 100th for Christensen as the Tigers' head coach, making him just the second coach in the school's history to reach the milestone.
Christensen was named the USMC/WBCA Region Coach of the Year for 2015-16, guiding the Tigers to a record of 27-9 overall, the third most wins in program history. The Tigers also set four season team records - points (2,727), field goal percentage (44.8%), free-throw percentage (76.3%) and assists (640) - in 2015-16, while setting new marks for points in a game (126) and free-throw accuracy in a game (21-of-21).
The 2015-16 squad included five All-GPAC honorees, while junior Erica Herrold was named to the NAIA All-American Second Team.
Christensen brought a wealth of basketball coaching experience, as well as knowledge of the area, with him to the Tiger program. DWU is Christensen’s first collegiate coaching position, but he has 11 very successful years of high school coaching under his belt. For nine seasons, he coached the Mount Vernon High School girls’ basketball team. In those nine seasons, his teams went 173-29 (.856) with six conference titles, five district championships and four region titles.
In 2004 and 2005, Christensen led the Fillies to back-to-back Class “B” state titles with a 49-0 record. Mount Vernon also took second- and third-place finishes in two other trips to state. Christensen was nominated for the South Dakota Girls’ Coach of the Year award four times and won the honor in 2004. He also coached the South Dakota/Nebraska All-Star Game.
Before coming to Dakota Wesleyan, Christensen spent two seasons turning the Wagner High School boys’ basketball team into a state-title contender. Before his tenure with the Red Raiders, the team won 10 games in three seasons. In Christensen’s two seasons, the team went 34-8 (.809), won two conference titles and also achieved a top-five ranking in the South Dakota Sportswriters’ Association Boys’ Basketball Poll.
Christensen has also had the opportunity to coach at camps in South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and Iowa, and he has organized individual camps in Mount Vernon and Wagner. He has also helped organize several basketball camps at Mitchell High School.
Christensen grew up in Mitchell and played high school basketball for the Kernels before graduating from Dakota Wesleyan in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in elementary education. He received a master’s degree in physical education, health and recreation from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kan., in 2004.
Christensen and his wife, Michelle, live in Mitchell, S.D., with their two children, Kaitlyn and Tyler.