Lady Rustlers rounding up new talent

Apr 26, 2017 By Scott Akanewich, Sports Editor

Part of coaching basketball at the community college level is constantly restocking one's roster.

At most, players only stick around for two seasons and sometimes will move on after only a single campaign, seeking greener hardwood pastures.

So, it's a good thing Central Wyoming College women's head coach Ken Swartz has been at his craft for over four decades and is an old hand when it comes to this kind of constant turnover amongst the roundball ranks.

The veteran bench boss took over the Lady Rustlers last season on an interim basis, inheriting a squad which finished the season 5-24.

Certainly, there was talent and bright spots along the way, such as leading scorer Atajma Criss-Felton, who averaged 15.6 points per game and was named to the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association all-Region IX team, along with fellow sophomore and Shoshoni alum Olivia Thompson leading the club with 7.6 rebounds per game and making the Region IX all-defensive squad.

However, both have done their time at Central and are moving on, leaving gaping holes in Swartz's lineup, which calls for a replenishment of the forces who will man the trenches for his club come next season.

As a result, Swartz has signed a total of 10 new players from far and wide, as well as locally, in an effort to bolster his arsenal of offensive and defensive weapons.

Most notably on the list is Wyoming Indian's Amryn Brown, who finished her career as a Lady Chief a three-time Class 2-A all-state selection, was named Fremont County player of the year and also won the Bob Carey Memorial Award this season as the top Class 2-A/1-A girls player in the state, after averaging 17.6 points per game. The 5-foot-8 Brown will use her versatility to play both guard positions, as well as small forward.

Another new face which should already be familiar to Fremont County basketball fans is Rocky Mountain's Marissa Arnold, as the 5-foot-9 forward, who made Class 2-A all-state her last two seasons, averaging 15.8 points per contest her senior year, has also signed on with the Orange-and-Black.

Although seven of the new players averaged double-digit scoring last season, which will augment an offense which put up 62.8 points per game, defense is also at a premium and Swartz locked up both in 5-foot-10 Paulani Tarawa, who scored 16.2 points per game and averaged 9.5 rebounds at Mountain View High School in Orem, Utah her senior year and was named Utah state defensive player of the year, along with being named Class 5-A all-state her final two seasons and will fill the center and power forward positions for the Lady Rustlers.

Brayle Crosman, a 5-foot-9 guard from Grantsville (Utah) High School, produced 12 points, 6.7 rebounds and four assists in garnering all-state honorable mention status, along with Alyzae Roberts (Taylorsville, Utah), who was fifth in the state in rebounding at 10.5 boards per game, taking advantage of her powerful 6-foot-1 frame, also join the roster.

Adding yet more size to the lineup are 6-foot center/forward Chelsey Drury of Summit Academy in Bluffdale, Utah, who averaged a double-double her senior campaign, with 10.7 points and 10.3 rebounds, plus 2.2 blocks and 5-foot-10 Shelby Bransteter of Park City, Montana, who was all-state in averaging 11.4 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two blocks, was all-state her senior year and academic all-state in each of her four years of high school and Megan Krahenbuhl, 5-foot-11, of Riverton, Utah, who averaged seven points and nine rebounds.

Rounding out the new arrivals are a pair of guards in 5-foot-6 Brenna Blaser, a high school teammate of Khahenbuhl at Riverton (Utah) High School, who averaged 14.2 points per game and was ranked fourth in 3-point shooting in the state and 5-foot-4 point guard Olivia Shippen of Rigby, Idaho, who posted 8.2 points and seven assists.

Despite the wave of new talent arriving on campus, it's not all out-with-the-old, as three players from last season's squad will return.

Bailey Forney averaged 8.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists while filling both guard positions, as well as small forward.

Amanda Mitchell, a 5-11 forward and Myriah Fauber, a 5-foot-7 guard, also return and will play vital roles for the Rustlers.

According to Swartz, it was mission accomplished as far as checking all the needs off his wish list.

"We needed to get some size and we did that," said Swartz. "Something else we wanted to add was a lot of quickness, so we can play the style of in-your-face basketball we want to."

The Central bench boss wanted to make sure he wasn't left outmanned and outgunned as was so often the case last season, he said.

"We needed some good depth who was ready to help us right now," said Swartz. "From a coach's point of view, the fun part will be watching the growth process of all these freshman."

During his many years as head coach of the Lady Mustangs of Western Wyoming Community College, Swartz managed to maintain a balance of freshmen and sophomores, which is ideal, but he wasn't afforded that luxury this time around and adjusted accordingly, he said.

"Sure, it's always good to have returners," said Swartz. "This is the most freshmen I've ever had at one time, but the three players we have coming back will be a tremendous help because they really believe in what we're doing. They'll certainly be a learning curve, so we'll have to be patient."

Once the new campaign begins, there will be the expected ups and downs most seasons contain and Swartz knows it's his and assistant coach Mika Pinner's task to help guide the players through rough waters on their voyage, he said.

"Peaks are easy to handle," said Swartz. "Our jobs as coaches are to get them out of the valleys. I know what the process is and what it takes to get these players to the next level."

With all the new players at his disposal, Swartz is anxious to get the ball rolling on next season, already, he said.

"I'm really excited," said Swartz. "I wish we could start practice tomorrow."

The veteran coach acknowledged the fact there will be, as always, a transition period when such a high roster turnover occurs, but also knows he's recruited the right players for his program.

"I think we have a chance to be pretty good," he said. "Youth will get in the way early, but that's okay because we're very athletic and that's what excites me."

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Amanda Mitchell (15) will add toughness and defensive intensity down low. Photo by Scott Akanewich

Amanda Mitchell (15) will add toughness and defensive intensity down low. Photo by Scott Akanewich

Amanda Mitchell (15) will add toughness and defensive intensity down low. Photo by Scott Akanewich

Amanda Mitchell (15) will add toughness and defensive intensity down low. Photo by Scott Akanewich

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