Nov 16, 2012 5:00 PM by KPAX/KAJ Media Center
MISSOULA - Montana women's basketball coach Robin Selvig has been a baseball fan for just as long as he's been into basketball -- five-plus decades of passion for both -- so it should come as no surprise that he goes cross-sport with his metaphors when talking about the three players he signed to National Letters of Intent this week.
"We hit for the cycle with this group. They are good kids, good players and good students. They are everything you look for in a class," he said. "We think we had a really good recruiting year."
Montana spanned the Northwest with its latest class, signing players from Montana, Washington and Oregon. Joining the Lady Griz next fall will be 6-3 forward/center Alycia Sims of Stevensville, Mont., Kayleigh Valley, a 5-11 forward from Spokane, Wash., and 6-2 forward/center Mekayla Isaak of Bend, Ore.
With a team of 16 players this year and four seniors -- Katie Baker, Kenzie De Boer, Alexandra Hurley and Alyssa Smith -- set to leave the program at season's end, the new additions will give Selvig the complete roster of 15 players he expects to take into his 36th season next fall. That means his recruiting, at least for this particular class, is complete.
"It's great to get it done in November," Selvig said. "You're on the kids you want, you know you want them, and they decide early. The only reason you ever end up going into spring is because you didn't get somebody you wanted early, so then you're still looking.
"The goal is to be done in November, and generally we have been. If you're on kids you like, and you know you want to offer them, it's a good sign to have it done. It means you signed the class you wanted to sign."
Sims, a senior at Stevensville High, is the lone in-state product Montana signed in this year's class. Despite the proximity of Missoula and the University to her home in Stevensville, or perhaps because of it, signing with the Lady Griz was not the easy decision most would assume Sims had.
Local standout + good local program = zero doubt wasn't the formula Sims was following when she took visits to Wyoming, Idaho State, Boise State and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. It took her fifth and final official visit to Montana before Sims realized the opportunity she had just up the road.
"I thought for the longest time that I wanted to get away from home and attend college in another state," she said. "My first four official visits were all taken out of state, and it wasn't until the last minute that I decided to take my final visit to Montana.
"I'd been on campus and around the coaches and players many times before, but that visit allowed me to sit back and look at everything the Lady Griz and the University have to offer. The school is strong academically, and the basketball program is amazing. Plus I know that I will receive a lot of support from my family and friends and the Stevensville community.
"I spent too much time playing the ‘grass is always greener' game. In the end playing for a wonderful staff a half hour from home felt like the best choice for me."
Sims is a two-time Class A all-state selection. Last season she averaged 17.2 points per game while leading the Yellowjackets to a 15-6 record.
"We always want to get the best Montana kids, so we are thrilled to get Alycia," Selvig said. "We've been watching her for a long time, and we like everything about her. We think she'll be a heck of a player here.
"She is big, and she's strong, and she's already good defensively. She is a skilled player who is a hard worker."
Valley, a senior at Spokane's University High, went through a thought process similar to Sims when she began narrowing down her list of schools. Ultimately the deciding factor was location: Close enough to home, but not so close that she would miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime experience that going off to college affords.
"Basically my decision came down to location. Montana was close enough to home to where my parents can come to every game but still far enough away that I will be able to get the college experience," she said.
Also working in Montana's favor was Valley's decision to spend time on the UM campus last June and time with the Lady Griz coaching staff at one of the program's annual summer camps.
"I love the whole coaching staff. They are very friendly and personable people," she said. "And the University has a great physical therapy program, which I hope to go into.
"Overall I'm just ecstatic to be living my dream of playing college basketball and doing it at such an amazing school that also has a successful basketball program."
Valley, who also has Division I volleyball talent, was named a first-team All-Greater Spokane League selection as a junior after averaging 12.6 points per game and leading the Titans to a fifth-place finish at the 2012 Washington Class 3A state tournament.
She earned second-team all-tournament honors last March after averaging 13.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in UHS's three state tournament games. That included an 18-point, 15-rebound performance in the Titans' opening-round victory over Seattle Prep.
"What I really like about Kayleigh is her versatility," Selvig said. "She has enough size to do some good things inside and enough quickness and perimeter skills that she could play a number of different positions for us."
No signing class is complete without a daisy-chain story coming into play. Selvig coached Angella Bieber in the 1990s. Bieber is married to former Griz basketball letter-winner Nathan Covill. Covill coached girls' basketball last season at Redmond (Ore.) High. Bend High beat Redmond last January, with Isaak scoring 22 of BHS's 43 points.
"Isaak just crushed us," Covill told the Bend Bulletin after the game. And that led to the Covills contacting the Montana coaching staff about a player from Bend it really needed to check out.
"They contacted us and said, ‘Hey, this kid is pretty good,' " Selvig said. "We saw some film and then watched her in the summer and really liked her. She made an unofficial visit last summer and made her decision pretty early.
"We wanted to get a size kid in this group for sure, and we ended up getting two. We don't have any glaring roster weaknesses right now, but we'll have some openings down the road. Alycia and Mekayla are both good players. They are both mobile for size kids, and both have perimeter skills."
Isaak was an Oregon Class 5A first-team all-state selection as a junior and the Intermountain Conference player of the year after leading the Lava Bears to a 20-7 record. She averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game.
Bend High finished fifth at the 2012 Class 5A state tournament, with Isaak earning first-team all-tournament honors. She had a 10-point, 11-rebound effort in a quarterfinal win over Hermiston and 8 points and 13 rebounds in a loss to West Albany in the 3rd/5th-place game.
"I chose Montana because I love the town of Missoula, and the coaches were exactly what I was looking for," Isaak said. "The assistant coaches all played for Robin, and I know with his history that I won't have to worry about him leaving.
"The players were all so nice to me, and I just loved the atmosphere around the team. I'm really excited to become a Lady Griz!"
Selvig is high on his newest signees, but, like any coach judging any class, he won't know for sure how it works out until a few years down the road. In other words, or to go cross-sport, he'll have to wait and see if he really did hit a home run.