GCHS' Solorio, McKee ink JUCO letters

4/17/2014

By BRETT MARSHALL

By BRETT MARSHALL

bmarshall@gctelegram.com

Since he was a freshman on the Garden City High School baseball team, Thomas Solorio had one goal in mind — to keep playing the game he loved for as long as he could.

For Tionnia McKee, her realization of playing collegiate basketball wasn't all that clear until her final season in a GCHS Lady Buffs uniform.

Now, the two seniors will be able to fulfill those long, and short dreams after signing respective letters-of-intent to play at the community college level in 2014-15.

Solorio will take his catching and hitting talents across Kansas to Independence Community College, where he will play for the Pirates, while McKee, a speedy, quick guard, will take her defensive prowess and penetrating offensive mindset just down the street, where she will play for Nick Salazar at Garden City Community College.

"I like the team, the coaches, and the way they ran things," Solorio said in choosing Independence for his next step in baseball. "I had some contact here (GCCC), but I just felt like Independence was the fit I was looking for."

Solorio was an all-Western Athletic Conference selection for coach Bill Wilson a year ago, and the senior is off to a strong start in his final prep season.

"I'll go and see what kind of numbers I can put up and then hopefully transfer to a four-year school," Solorio said when asked about his choice to attend a community college. "I should get more playing time there than if I went to a four-year school right away."

Solorio is considered to be both a strong defensive catcher, as well as a solid hitter, which makes his upside even more so as he heads to the next level.

"The biggest thing I've noticed so far this year, is that he's got a lot more bounce behind the plate," GCHS coach Bill Wilson said after the signing ceremony was completed. "He takes a lot of pride in throwing out runners and he's been making solid contact at the plate all year."

One of the biggest compliments Wilson made of his catcher came when discussing Solorio's handling of an inexperienced pitching corps.

"I've kinda handed it over to him as far as calling the game with the pitchers," Wilson said, "and I've never done that before. There's not a lot of guys who want to be behind the plate, but he's pretty comfortable back there. He's a good athlete and he could also play first base or third base. I think Indy got a steal."

Solorio said he planned to study chiropractic medicine and hoped to transfer to Wichita State University in two years.

McKee, a 5-6 guard, played a prominent role in helping the Lady Buffs reach the Class 6A sub-state championship game, where she scored 11 points in the season-ending game.

McKee said during the recruiting process, she felt that the GCCC coaching staff (Salazar and assistant Whitney Corley) had made for a good fit.

"I really connected with both coach Salazar and Corley," McKee said. "I think if they're in a pressing defense, I'll have a chance to be at the top of the press just kinda like I did in high school. My shooting has gotten a lot better, and I feel my quickness helps me drive the ball. I've got a lot more work to do on my outside shot."

McKee indicated that she also was recruited by Colby Community College, but opted to stay at home.

"I like it here a lot and I think I've improved a lot since my junior year," McKee said. "It will be fun to see how it is to play at the next level because of the style of play they have."

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