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Prep basketball star picks UND over Oklahoma, LSU, others

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UND men's basketball coach Brian Jones woke up to tropical weather Wednesday, Nov. 8, in Hawaii, where his team starts the Outriggers Resort Rainbow Classic on Friday.

His day only got better from there.

The Fighting Hawks received a National Letter of Intent on Wednesday from Jal Bijiek, a 6-foot-9, 190-pound forward who held scholarship offers from Oklahoma, LSU, Wichita State and Texas Tech, among others.

Despite Bijiek's unique decision to spurn offers from high major programs, Jones said he wasn't worried about his potential star being poached as signing day neared.

"We've been recruiting the kid quite a while," Jones said. "We've had conversations with him daily. He has a loyalty to people who've helped him along the way. I felt pretty comfortable with the whole situation."

UND's ties to Bijiek run deep. The Fighting Hawks have five Iowans on the roster and assistant coach Jeff Horner formerly coached in Des Moines, where Bijiek played high school basketball.

Jones also said Bijiek's guardian played AAU basketball with former UND standout Pat Mitchell.

UND true freshman Tray Buchanan also played AAU basketball and is friends with Bijiek.

"He knows a lot of the guys, and he's comfortable," Jones said.

Bijiek averaged 15.2 points as a senior at Des Moines North. He had 82 blocks and took North to the state tournament for the first time in 26 years.

"He is only scratching the surface as a player and will continue to blossom as he matures," Jones said.

Bijiek, who has a 7-foot-1 wingspan, will return home to Des Moines to workout before joining UND in 2018.

He originally committed to Tulsa but reopened his recruitment in early October.

The recruiting website 247Sports ranks Bijiek as a four-star recruit, No. 154 in the nation, No. 11 in Texas and the No. 39 power forward.

After leaving Iowa, Bijiek attended Creating Young Minds Academy, a prep school, in Irving, Texas.

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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