Stratton comes up big with first recruiting class

By Doug Fitzgerald published May 16, 2006

When University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Athletic Director Stephen Kirkham selected Jessika Stratton as coach the Mountain Lions womenâ€TMs basketball team, some detractors doubted whether the 24-year old would be able to recruit at the Division II level.

They may have been right. Judging by her first incoming class, Stratton may be recruiting somewhere ABOVE the Division II level.

Strattonâ€TMs first recruiting class includes three Division I transfers, a junior college national assists leader and three highly regarded freshmen.

“The class is really balanced between juniors, sophomores and freshmen,” said Stratton. “We needed a strong first class to build the foundation of our program.”

Joining the Mountain Lions from the Division I ranks will be sophomores Nancy Hoist (Eastern Kentucky) and Candace Thornton (Northern Colorado) along with junior Tonya Tripp (High Point).

“Weâ€TMre very fortunate to be able to add three players with Division I experience,” said Stratton. “We expect them to come in and contribute immediately.”

Hoist was the Big Island Player of the Year as a senior at Konawaena High School in Hawaii before going to Eastern Kentucky for the 2004-05 season. As a freshman she played in 20 of the Lady Colonelsâ€TM 31 games, averaging 14 minutes, 3.1 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Hoist redshirted last season. The 6-footer will play primarily at power forward for UCCS but has the mobility and ball handling skill to play small forward and the strength to slide over to center as needed.

Thornton, who was known as Candace Buttars at Northern Colorado, was already well known at UCCS since Kirkham had tried to recruit her when he was the coach at Mesa State. Instead, the 5-foot-9 guard opted to go to Division I Northern Colorado, where she redshirted in 2004-05. Thornton had trouble finding a niche in UNC coach Ron Vlasinâ€TMs 3-pointer oriented system and saw action in only 10 games this past season, but power offensive game and tenacious defense should quickly endear her to Stratton and make Thornton a force in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

Tripp will be an immediate force in the post for UCCS. The 6-foot-1 center played two seasons for High Point in North Carolina, averaging 15 minutes per game as a freshman and 11.3 minutes per game as a redshirt sophomore. She averaged 3.9 points and 2.9 rebounds per game for the Panthers.

Those players will need someone to get the ball to them, and Stratton found that someone in the person of junior Stacy LaBuhn, a transfer from Joliet Junior College in Illinois. The 5-foot-6 point guard led NJCAA Division III with 8.4 assists per game last year. She also averaged 10.3 points and 3.03 steals per game and shot 36.5 percent from 3-point range. LaBuhn really turned it up a couple of notches as her team reached the home stretch. From Jan. 31 to Feb. 21, she averaged 9.9 assists and 11.9 points while shooting 51.3 percent on 2-pointers, 41.2 percent on 3-pointers and 93.8 percent from the foul line.

While transfers are great for a program, a great program is built around freshmen and Stratton found three gems to build around.

Alex Pitts, a 5-11 post player from Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Ore., will provide depth in the frontcourt. Her strength was illustrated by her being accepted to the Air Force Academy, although she declined the appointment, as a javelin thrower.

Lauren Holm is a 5-foot-9 shooting guard from Dakota Ridge High School who will give the Mountain Lions some much-needed perimeter shooting. She shot 41.5 percent from 3-point range as a senior while also averaging 5.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

Rounding out Strattonâ€TMs first recruiting class is Janean Jubic, a speedy point guard from Pueblo West High School. Jubic averaged 12.5 points per game as a senior for the Cyclones.

The newcomers will be joined by returning power forward Emily Jenkins, who missed all of the 2005-06 season after averaging 9.1 points and 7.8 rebounds for the Mountain Lions in 2004-05.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Nancy HoistNancy Hoist40F
Nancy HoistNancy Hoist40F
Nancy HoistNancy Hoist40F
Tonya TrippTonya Tripp43C
Tonya TrippTonya Tripp43CSr.
Candace ThorntonCandace Thornton23G/FSo.
Candace ThorntonCandace Thornton23G/FJr.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts21FFr.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts50FSo.
Alex PittsAlex Pitts44FJr.
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