By Jordan Wickstrom
When the 2010-11 season ended for the Garden City Community College women's basketball team, there were a handful of positions that would need to be filled because of graduation.
But with all freshmen from last season's team returning plus six more recruits signed on for next season, the Lady Busters will return with a fully-loaded roster.
"I'm really excited about the players we have signed so far," said GCCC coach Alaura Sharp. "I think the most exciting thing about all of them is the potential of growth and how big of an upside they have as players."
Headlining the list of in-state recruits are South Gray's Mikayla Skidmore, a 5-5 guard who was The Telegram's Player of the Year in both 2010 and 2011 and was part of two Class 1A state championship teams and one state runner-up with the Lady Rebels.
After playing with upperclassmen teammates Brigit Hesser (Pittsburg State) and Kayla Thomas (2009 Telegram Player of the Year), Skidmore was double and triple-teamed by defenses this past season yet still averaged 21 points, 6.2 assists, 5.4 steals and 7.4 rebounds per game. Skidmore finished her career with 1,612 points (16.4 average), 403 rebounds, 431 assists, 384 steals and made 137 3-point field goals. She broke 14 school records in the process.
Holcomb's Breanna Gottschalk (16.8 ppg), a 5-10 forward and two-time Telegram All-Area first-team selection, and Southwestern Heights' Deni Jacobs (11 ppg) highlight a strong southwest Kansas recruiting class. Gottschalk led the Lady Longhorns to an 18-4 record in her senior season.
Rounding out the rest of the Kansas players are Lakaya Steele (13 ppg) from Wallace County High School in Sharon Springs and Brittany Maxwell from Southeast High in Wichita.
"(Gottschalk, Skidmore, Steele) all come in with a good skill base," Sharp said. "They all can handle the ball, they all shoot the ball and they all bring something to the table."
Sharp also announced the signing of Ashley Goodlow, a 6-foot-1 forward from Wings Academy in Harlem, New York, who averaged nine points and nine rebounds per game.
Jacobs joins the team after missing most of her senior season with a broken leg.
"(Jacobs), the thing about her, is she's been out injured," Sharp said. "So we've got to get her healthy. But she's so athletic. She played in a really good high school program and we see her really benefitting our transition game and spreading the middle of the floor, catch passes over the top and laying them in. She's got a big upside as a player."
Sharp also expects four more recruits to be signed soon, but was not yet ready to announce those players.
With a recruiting class potentially made up of 10 incoming freshmen, Sharp said she was excited about the potential next season's team has.
"I think we've done a good job of researching each player and making sure their work ethic goes along with our program, and how we want to develop them as people and as players," Sharp said.
Sharp said she expects the team to be more of the faster-paced, running team she prefers.
"Our core group has worked so hard over the spring, and have really improved their ball handling and shooting," Sharp said. "With the players we have returning, their personalities mesh really well with the players we have coming in. We hope we've recruited to play very fast and very up-tempo, the way I've always wanted to play."
For Sharp, this has been one of her most successful recruiting classes since coming to Garden City two seasons ago.
She admitted to having problems getting recruits to sign with the program last off-season but she said she found this year to be much easier; a fact she credits to the program's success.
"Last year, we got five no's before we could get one person to tell us yes," Sharp said. "This year it was almost the direct opposite. Recruiting is the bloodline of your program and being able to recruit good players in your own state is obviously really beneficial.
"Being here longer helps you know who the players are earlier," she said. "Also, establishing that winning tradition and establishing our program in the state of Kansas helps us sign a Wichita kid or something in that sort."
Last season, Garden City went 16-15 overall and 6-10 in the conference, and will be hoping to make it back to Wichita after falling short against Coffeyville in the first round of the Region VI tournament.