Kirkham announces recruiting class

By Doug Fitzgerald published May 3, 2010

University of Colorado at Colorado Springs women's basketball coach Stephen Kirkham announced Monday the signing of five new players and the return of another.

Joining the Mountain Lions for the 2010-11 season will be Lauryn Near of Standley Lake High School, Jordyn Rienks of Paonia High School, Sarah Curby of Mesa Ridge High School and Jessica and Danielle Brown from Montebello High School by way of Eastern Wyoming College. Another player, Kirsten Buttars, will be returning to UCCS after missing two seasons.

"This group, in addition to our two early signings, Jeri Pikul and Sammi Gentile who were both named all-state, we were able to fill virtually every need by position to raise the competitive level that we expect for 2010-11," said UCCS Kirkham. "I really like the fact that Reinks and Near are coaches' kids and that Curby and the Brown sisters come from very good programs. They're all very well coached and taught.

"As I was watching each of these kids, they got better as the games got tougher. In championship programs, the most important traits are aggression and the ability elevate your game in crucial moments."

One area in particular that Kirkham wants to see improvement is in rebounding. The Mountain Lions were outrebounded by an average of 6.8 per game this past season, but that number was a staggering 14.8 over the final 11 games of the season. Past Kirkham teams were always at or near the top of the league standings in both rebounding and defense, so it follows that he would place added emphasis on those areas.

"The main thing we were looking for in this recruiting class was an aggressive nature," said Kirkham. "I'm very pleased with that aspect of this class."

While this entire recruiting class has strong pedigrees on the glass, Near's comes with the hardware to prove it. The 6-foot forward/center led Colorado Class 5A in rebounding with 13.3 per game and was second in blocked shots with four per game.

Near, who also averaged 11.5 points per game, was named to the All-North Metro Team by the Metro North News and was a Class 5A all-state honorable mention selection by the Denver Post. A good all-around athlete, Near competes in the 300-meter hurdles and the long jump in track.

In Rienks UCCS adds the Denver Post's Colorado Class 2A player of the year. The 5-foot-11 forward led the Paonia Eagles to a 24-2 record and a state championship this past season. Rienks has been a part of three state playoff teams at Paonia and also throws the shot put for the track team.

Curby, a 5-foot-11 forward, averaged 7.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game for a Mesa Ridge team that went 23-3 this past season. Curby was the Mustangs' leading scorer with 13 points in their state quarterfinal loss to Mullen. She was an honorable mention all-area selection by the Gazette.

Expected to make a significant impact are the Brown twins, Jessica and Danielle, who come to UCCS from Eastern Wyoming College and Montebello High School. Despite standing just 5-foot-6, the Browns were the top two rebounders for the Eastern Wyoming Lancers in 2009-10, with Jessica averaging 7.4 per game and Danielle adding 6.1 per game.

The Browns will create matchup headaches for opponents since their strength and explosiveness will be difficult for other guards to handle and their quickness will be a huge advantage against forwards. Jessica used these traits to lead the Lancers in scoring (16.5 per game), assists (three per game) and steals (2.4 per game) while shooting 51.4 percent from the field. Danielle was second to her sister in assists (1.9) and steals (2.3) while also averaging nine points.

Rounding out the class is the return of a familiar face, Buttars, who played for UCCS as a freshman in 2007-08. A classic scrapper, Buttars played in 19 games as a freshman, starting 12, averaging six points and 4.7 rebounds in 19.7 minutes per game. In the games she started, Buttars averaged 7.3 points and six rebounds per game, including a 14-point, 10-round performance against Metro State and a 13-point, 10-rebound outing against Nebraska-Kearney.

The two players that joined the Mountain Lions during the early signing period both went on to have outstanding senior seasons. Pikul, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Buena Vista High School, was a second-team Class-3A all-state selection by the Denver Post and Gentile was named Class 3A honorable mention.

UCCS Players/Staff Featured

Lauryn NearLauryn Near22FSo
Lauryn NearLauryn Near22FRS
Lauryn NearLauryn Near22FFr
Jordyn RienksJordyn Rienks15FFr.
Sarah CurbySarah Curby20F
Danielle BrownDanielle Brown21GSr.
Danielle BrownDanielle Brown21GJr.
Sammi GentileSammi Gentile30FJr
Sammi GentileSammi Gentile33FFr.
Sammi GentileSammi Gentile30FSo.
Jeri PikulJeri Pikul24GJr
Jeri PikulJeri Pikul23GFr
Jeri PikulJeri Pikul24GSo
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