Mankato celebrates women’s and men’s NCAA Division II championship wins

Minnesota State University, Mankato men's basketball player Dylan Peeters gives a high five to young fan as the team signed autographs at the end of a welcome home celebration. Both the MSU men's and women's teams won the Division II championships and were welcomed home by fans on Monday, April 1, 2024, at Taylor Center on campus.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Minnesota State University, Mankato took home not one, but two national championships this last weekend. The Mavericks are now the first NCAA Division II program in four decades to win both the men’s and women’s basketball championships in the same season.

It’s the second national title for the women’s team and the first championship for the men’s team.

The festivities continued for Mankato Monday as the school celebrated the wins with a pep rally to welcome the teams home.

Junior Destinee Bursch of the Mavericks women’s team says that both teams winning their respective titles in the same season meant the world.

“I feel like both teams have been talking to each other consistently these past couple days,” Bursch said. “And there’s just like, so much happiness … each one of us are proud of each other.”

Junior Kyreese Willingham, who scored the winning three-pointer for the men’s team, said the two programs have supported each other all season.

“Our group of girls and guys, we are just so close to each other, its like we are best friends with each other. So just experiencing this moment with each other in the same year, it’s just unbelievable for both of us,” Willingham said. “I am proud of those girls forever. And it’s just something that these two groups will enjoy forever and something we will talk about forever and its an awesome feeling.”

A man talks and smiles
Malik Willingham jokes with his teammates while talking about the final play that won the Minnesota State University-Mankato men’s basketball team the NCAA Division II championship, with the championship trophy sitting between them, during a welcome home celebration on Monday, April 1, 2024. Both the men’s and women’s teams from Minnesota State University-Mankato won the Division II national championship, something that has only been done once before.
Jackson Forderer for MPR News

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, who earned his master's degree from Mankato State, talked about the Maverick’s wins during an afternoon press conference Monday.

“We’re so proud, as a Mav alumni, both titles in Division II, men’s and women’s, so it’s a pretty big deal,” Walz said. “Really proud to be a Maverick today.”