Busters' Pope, Parreira sign Division-I letters-of-intent

5/9/2013

Busters' Pope, Parreira sign Division-I letters-of-intent

Busters' Pope, Parreira sign Division-I letters-of-intent

By ADAM HOLT

aholt@gctelegram.com

It's not always a quick path to NCAA Division I athletics, but for a pair of Broncbusters, things might have come out better in the end because of it.

Women's basketball player Tahlia Pope and volleyball player Natalia Parreira signed their letters-of-intent Wednesday in the Hall of Fame room at the Perryman Athletic Complex, Pope with the University of Texas-Arlington, and Parreira with the University of Toledo.

Pope transferred to Garden City from the University of Houston after suffering an achilles injury, and is now headed back to the Division I level.

"It feels pretty amazing," Pope said. "That's what the goal was."

Pope helped the Lady Busters to the Region VI semifinals and a 29-4 record, and got better as the season went on. When two starters left the program in January, she was called on to handle more of the scoring load, and responded with at least nine points in the final nine games of the season, starting with a three-game stretch where she scored 21, 15 and 19. She became particularly adept at drawing fouls on her way to the rim, and shot at least six free throws in each of her final nine games.

"She did everything I asked her to do," former head coach Alaura Sharp said. "When I asked her to step up, she rose to the challenge. You could say that about every single player on the team, but statistically, she was the biggest difference — her and Mikell (Chinn) — were the biggest difference statistically as the season grew and the season and our team dimension changed."

Pope ended up playing all over the court, usually defending the opponents' top guard, and handled the point when Chinn wasn't on the floor. That versatility should serve the 6-foot Wichita native well in the future.

"I think it was definitely beneficial," she said. "It's going to help me expand my game. If they need me to take on a role at my new school, it will be easy to do and switch over to."

"She accepted every role," Sharp said. "She played the 1, the 2, the 3, the 4, she accepted every challenge, she never complained, she just did everything she was asked to do. Not every player is like that. They are very special."

Pope plans to study a pre-pharmacy track, with the goal of going to pharmacy school after finishing her undergraduate degree.

Parreira's trip to the NCAA took even more stops. The Brazilian left to come to the United States after high school, playing one year at Ranger College (Texas) prior to her time at Garden City.

The goal was always to play Division I volleyball, while at the same time getting her degree — which wasn't an option in Brazil.

"It's just a long journey, I would say. Coming from Brazil to junior college and the process of being recruited, and being able to get seen up there — you've got to really make your name. The only way you can do it is having good stats, having good records with your team, and of course, having a good season overall.

"For me, when I came to Garden City in my sophomore year, I already had a goal set — I'm gonna go there to make a difference. I'm not going to go there to go back to Brazil."

Parreira was a first-team all Jayhawk West and Region VI selection, and helped the Busters finish their best season in years, which included the first conference and home wins since 2008.

The Rockets compete in the Mid-American Conference, and have seen success in head coach Greg Smith's four seasons. And the school is a good academic fit for Parreira, who is studying international business.

Former head coach Rob Lutz said the high level of competition should make Toledo a good fit for Parreira.

"When you're one of the top players in the conference, you don't always have to work hard," Lutz said. "Natalia always did work hard. But I think when you're surrounded by people who are a little bit better than you, or are at least as good as you are every single day, you're able to reach a level that you can't reach without them around you. And I think Toledo offers that for her on the athletic side."

Knowing what she wanted from both an academic and athletic standpoint helped Parreira narrow her choices. Ohio is going to be a bit chillier than she's used to, but she's excited about the change.

"Everything's gonna be different, weather-wise, but the area is just beautiful," she said. "It's just green, it's different from here."

And to make good on her goal of coming to the U.S. to play volleyball and get a degree says a lot about Parreira's determination.

"It tells you a little bit about her focus," Lutz said. "It tells you about her drive, her commitment, the fact that she has known for a long time that she wanted to get a degree in the United States, because that was important to her. So she figured out how to get to school here, and how to play volleyball here, and how to make that happen. Not many people can do that; it takes a very special person to do that, and Natalia is that 1-in-10,000 person that can do that."

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