WINCHESTER — Dave Stricklin likes the athleticism of his Umpqua Community College women’s basketball 2020 recruiting class on paper.
What that means on the basketball court remains to be seen for the Riverhawks. They’ll pretty much be fielding a brand new team in the 2020-21 season after losing 10 sophomores from last year’s powerhouse that won all 29 of its games before the coronavirus pandemic denied UCC an opportunity of winning the Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament championship.
“I’m happy with it,” said Stricklin, who added he’s hoping to add a few more recruits before the month is over. “It will be like the UCC rosters of old — players from seven states and maybe more.
“It’s been a hectic couple of months recruiting (which has been limited because of the pandemic). You just don’t know what you have until everybody gets here. You don’t look at what they did (in high school), it’s about what they can become by the time they leave (UCC).”
The recruits include Shelby Lund, a 5-foot-5 point guard from Stanwood, Washington; Gracie Anderson, a 5-11 forward from Blackfoot, Idaho; Kristen Thomas, a 5-9 guard/forward from Blackfoot, Idaho; Sydnei Collier, a 5-9 guard from Canyon Springs High School in Las Vegas; Fallon Hanson, a 5-7 point guard out of Junction City; Leiani Tonga, a 5-10 forward out of Pine View High School in St. George, Utah; Gabriela Colon, a 6-0 forward from Andress High School in El Paso, Texas; and Rayonni Mack, a 5-3 guard from Vanden High School in Fairfield, California.
Kiersten Haines, a 5-6 guard out of Sutherlin, was the first to sign with the Riverhawks. Three other former Douglas County players have indicated they’ll join the program — Jalen Robles, a 5-7 guard from Roseburg; Kieryn Carnes, a 5-7 guard from Elkton; and Jazmine Pardo Rams, a 5-6 guard from Glide.
Thomas and Mack will both compete in track and field as well for the Riverhawks. Thomas is a middle distance runner, while Mack is a sprinter/jumper.
Mack was the Monticello Empire League MVP in basketball for Vanden, averaging 8.7 points, 5.8 steals and 3.2 assists per game.
“It feels like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” Mack told The Daily Republic. “For a bit you do feel pressure during the recruiting phase. I’m glad to get things over with, though it wasn’t as hard as I thought it’d be.”
Mack said she chose UCC because it was the only school that recruited her for both track and basketball.
Thomas and Anderson were teammates at Blackfoot High School.
“I’m so excited to be going to UCC,” Anderson told the Bingham News Chronicle. “To be going with a great friend like Kristen is great and it’s a great opportunity for both of us.”
“I’m really excited for this opportunity to go to the next level,” Thomas told the Idaho Statesman Journal. “I look forward to the educational and athletic opportunities and can’t wait to get to the school and get started.”
Anderson runs the floor well, according to Stricklin, and will fit into the Riverhawks’ up-tempo system.
“She’s long and athletic, and plays good defense,” Stricklin said. “I’d compare her to Kayla Bice (who played for the Riverhawks from 2014-16).”
Hanson is a sophomore transfer from Corban University, an NAIA school in Salem. She played high school ball at Class 6A Sheldon in Eugene and 4A Junction City.
Hanson saw action in all 30 games last season at Corban as a freshman, making 11 starts and averaging 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists. She had a high scoring game of 14 points against Northwest.
“We’ve known Fallon for a couple of years (recruiting-wise),” Stricklin said. “She shoots it pretty well. With her and Kiersten (Haines), we should have two of the better shooting guards in the NWAC.”
Collier reminds Stricklin of Shanta Coleman, who was a point guard for the Riverhawks from 1998-2000.
“She’s athletic and handles the ball well,” Stricklin said. “She’s a slasher type of player and has the potential to be a defensive stopper.”
Stricklin likens Colon to Darian Mitchell, the former Douglas High School standout who was a two-time first-team all-league post for the Riverhawks the past two seasons.
“She played three sports (at Andress) and is athletic and strong,” Stricklin said.
Lund was the only player who had a chance to visit UCC this year. She was coached by current Whatcom Community College coach Anthony Slater in club ball and is a strong ballhandler and shooter, according to Slater.
“He told me he thinks she can do what Cielo Gonzalez did for us this year,” Stricklin said.
Tonga could provide a presence inside for the Riverhawks.
“She’s like Sarona Snuka (who played at UCC from 1997-99 and is now a pro wrestler for World Wrestling Entertainment), but taller,” Stricklin said. “She plays bigger than what she is.”
Robles, a 2018 graduate of Roseburg High, is the daughter of former UCC men’s coach and RHS girls coach Rich Robles. She hasn’t played basketball since her senior year at RHS, when she was a second-team All-Southwest Conference selection.
Jalen Robles started college at Western Oregon University.
Carnes was a three-time first-team All-Skyline League selection for 1A Elkton. She averaged 10.9 points, 4.3 assists, 3.96 steals and 3.8 rebounds as a senior and received honorable mention all-state.
Only one of Umpqua’s four returning sophomores, 5-9 Paulina Finn, is expected to return. Hannah McKinney, Mariam Yaro and Maya Van Hook aren’t coming back at this time.