By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (July 13, 2017 ) — Tarleton State women’s basketball head coach Misty Wilson trusted in the process, and now, that trust is being rewarded.
Wilson knew she wasn’t about to sign McKinley Bostad, the star guard at Kennedale High School who was named 2013-14 Texas Girls Coaches Association 1A-3A Athlete of the Year. Yes, the same Bostad that joined past TexAnn Travanti Downes in leading Kennedale to a narrow victory over No. 1 Stephenville in a grueling defensive battle to determine the 2013 Region I-4A champion.
But Wilson recruited her anyway. Why? She had not just mid-major but high major offers, one of which she took, of course, heading to Arkansas of the Southeastern Conferencer.
But Wilson has come to understand something in four years of playing, 10 years of assistant coaching and three – about to be four – years of head coaching.
Few, if anything, is certain in college sports.
“You never know what’s going to happen. We were already recruiting (Downes), so why not go ahead and put some stuff in front of (Bostad) and get to know her a little, because she might be that player is available to you one day.”
That day has arrived, twice, actually, over the last few weeks.
There was a similar situation with Wilson’s recruitment of Katie Webster at 5A Rockwall Heath. Wilson and other Division II suiters were up against mid-majors who could boast of Division I status and all the supposedly great perks that come with it. And in the end, as is most often the case, the mid-majors won and Webster signed with Long Beach State in California.
But during recent weeks first Webster and then Bostad made official their plans to transfer from their current Division I homes – Webster still at LBSU and Bostad having left Arkansas for Texas State University in San Marcos -to try and find a better fit. In Division II. At Tarleton.
“With McKinley it was just a matter of getting in the back of her mind, and now, not only do we have her for two years, but she graduated in August, so she gets to come closer to home and will be a graduate student working on her master’s throughout the two years she plays for us.”
Tarleton is the third college stop for Bostad, who was a junior when she led Kennedale past Stephenville in the 2013 regional finals and on to the Conference 3A (now 4A) state final. She was ranked as the No. 21 Class of 2014 prospect in Texas and No. 146 in the nation by Premier Basketball Report, according to a Wednesday release announcing her transfer from Tarleton Athletic Communications. She averaged 22 points and six boards as a prep senior, enough to warrant a second round of all-state accolades.
Bosted played right away at Arkansas, hitting the court in 32 games as a true freshman 2014-15, and even scoring 15 points against Missouri to earn recognition as SEC Freshman of the Week.
But Bostad soon returned to her home state, transferring to Texas State, and of course, having to sit out the 2015-16 season. She retained the year of eligibility, however, then averaged 6.5 points while shooting 45.8 percent as a sophomore in 2016-17.
Webster went the more traditional transfer route – Division I out of high school and then straight to Division II with no stops in between. She spent two seasons in Long Beach, California where she played in 59 games including 30 as a sophomore this past season. She made four starts in 2016-17 and had a 12-point, seven-rebound performance against Nevada.
Webster was a four-year starter at 5A Heath, earning three team MVP awards and two 12-5A district offensive MVP accolades and two appearances on the TGCA All-State roster. She set Heath program single-season and career records for assists, 3-point field goals and points scored, according to a Tarleton Athletic Communications release on June 21 announcing her transfer plans.
Bostad and Wester highlight a class of eight new TexAnns who Wilson believes will address a bevy of team needs. The remaining six were all signed out of high school.
“After last season I felt like we needed more size on the perimeter. And we needed them to be dual scoring threats who can shoot from the outside and also drive and finish inside,” Wilson said. “Decision making was another need. We’ve always had one or two real good decision makers with a high IQ for the game, but we really emphasized going out and finding more girls like that and were successful, I think, in finding good decision makers who really have a higher understanding of the game that helps us to better facilitate our offense.”
There is yet another Kennedale the among the high school recruits in Lucy Benson, who Wilson says is “extremely, extremely athletic and a very instinctual layer. She’s really versatile, she can pull bigger defenders outside and go by them, but she can also post up with her back to the basket and score that way. She has the athletic ability to be a good rebounder, a lot like Ikpeaku Iwobi. I think she’s going to be a great asset for us and will come a long way just in her first six months here.”
Wilson says multiple reasons are behind the recent pipeline of women’s basketball players from Kennedale to Tarleton.
“I think Tarleton is the perfect distance from Kennedale. Players are enough away to have space, but close enough to go back home whenever they need to,” Wilson said. “They have a great program, and once you have players with success like that from their program, it makes you want to go back. When you’re able to get a (Travanti) Downes cut of there, you get excited about going back the next year to see who they’ve got. its a good pipeline to us from Kennedale, maybe we can keep that going.”
The class includes a pair of freshman point guards in Duncanville product Nina Alvarez and Ruthie Fox of Odessa, where the head coach is former TexAnn Olivia Pyburn.
Alvarez, just 5-foot-6, won two state championships at Duncanville.
“She comes from a historically great program, one of the best in Texas,” Wilson pointed out. “She’s not scared, not shy and does not let her size affect her at all. She’ll give us more depth at point guard, she has a lot of confidence and she likes to pus the ball in transit. She really sees the floor well, and has the quickness to be a great defensive player who can keep other guards in front of her.”
Wilson is especially excited about the floor vision of Fox.
“She probably sees the floor as well as any point guard I’ve seen in a long time,” the coach said. “She makes a lot of passes that other post guards can’t . She’s a true point guard who does a great job facilitating the offense, She doesn’t score a lot, but i feel like she has the ability to score with some development.”
Makaila Tyer is more of a shooting guard, coming historically strong Godley, where she led the Lady Wildcats past Stephenville twice this past season to win the 8-4A district championship. Godley went on to win the Region I-4A title before falling to conference champion Argyle in the semifinals at the state tournament.
Deziray Turner from Austin Bowie is another forward Wilson said is “extremely athletic,” and ads that Turner “really attacks the rim hard, needs to work on her shot some, but has the athletic ability and size to be a strong player in the LSC.
Tarleton had to get out early in the recruiting season to se Burnet’s Haley Feisler on the floor with and against varsity-level players. A standout at Tyler Chapel Hill, Feisler moved with her family to Burnet before her senior year. Chapel Hill’s coach indicated he thought the move was for athletic purposes and the UIL ruled her ineligible at Burnet.
But before spending the regular season playing on the junior varsity, Feisler looked strong, Wilson says, in varsity level Fall games.
“She has great size will really benefit, I think, from (Associate athletic director for performance Rod Cole) in the weight room,” Wilson said. “She’s already here taking a summer class to get ahead. She’s an outstanding worker, has a great attitude and I think she can help (Mackenzie Hailey) down low by posting up inside and working with her back to the basket. She has great footwork as a freshman.”
Speaking of Hailey, the all-conference and all-region selection who led the LSC tournament champion TexAnns in scoring last season, has had a request for a waiver granting medical redshirt approved and will be classified as a sophomore again next season. (More on Hailey, the year in question and what Wilson says the added eligibility means for the TexAnns coming soon to The Flash Today.).
With school approaching and some of the new players already reporting to campus, Wilson said the key currently for this and any new team is to develop chemistry, to blend not only the talents but also the personalities of the eight newcomers with the 11 returning players, including Hailey and fellow started Kylie Collins and Tiara Tatum.
“The girls are also different but they always seem to get along really well, and part of that is we as coaches making a conscientious effort to facilitate and grow those relationships,” said Wilson. “There’s no way around it – the way they get along off the court affects they work together on the court.”
With Bostad and Webster leading the way and adding star-type name power, the class shapes up well on paper. Wilson won’t lightly throw out terms like “best” when it comes to recruiting efforts, but she’s satisfied with the collection of talent added and as she puts it, the number of needs addressed.
“I feel like we really addressed a lot of needs and improved our team with this class. I don’t necessarily know that I would say it’s our best class, because we’ve had some other ones, like last year, but I do think like last year that it’s another great class,” Wilson said. “ I think we have the potential to be better early in the season than last year, and we will plan everything around getting better again as the season goes on.”