The Master's College women's basketball team has a lot to be excited about. After years of recruiting in one case and a handful of blessed connections through friends and family, the Mustangs have signed five new players and look to be deeper and stronger for 2011-12.
The Mustangs' first signing for next season was the result of years of relationship-building and recruiting a young and up-and-coming athlete from Snohomish, Washington. Whitney Best, a 5'6" true point guard more than proved her capabilities and personality over those years. Coach Dan Waldeck recruited the potential star starting in eighth grade and now is seeing the fruit of his labor with her signing. Best's commitment couldn't have come at a better time after the departure of senior point guard Erica Inge. The incoming freshman averaged 11.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 4.3 apg, and 3.5 spg in her final year of high school. Best is an athletic, but controlled, player who can beat opponents off the dribble, make them pay off the ball screen, and is great at setting up the offense and getting her teammates in position to score. She is strong, quick, and the type of athlete who makes one wonder if she knows what "out of shape" even means. At her high school she showed steady improvement, earning honorable mention All-Metro honors in 2007-08 and moving up each successive year to finish as an All-Metro first-team team selection in 2010-11. She was also selected to participate in the Queens of the Hardwood All-Star Game following her final prep campaign. Coach Waldeck commented, "Whitney's abilities will make an immediate impact on our program. Her athletic ability coupled with her skills and success is an exciting combination for our staff to be able to shape over the next four years. She will be a handful for opposing teams to stay in front of and will create easy shots for herself and her teammates."
Whitney said of her decision, "I chose The Master's because I felt this is the place that God has called me to be. After several visits spending time with the coaches and my future teammates, I truly can't imagine being anywhere else. The Master's is the perfect place for me."
Also coming in at the point is Maine product Julie Smith. The 5'6" guard is saavy and hard-working with a knack for creating shots for her teammates. She started for her varsity team three out of her four years (she was sidelined due to injury her sophomore year). In her first year she was named KVAC Class B All-Conference 2nd team, named to the New England Basketball Players to Watch, and led her team to the Maine state tournament. In her junior year she returned to play, this time leading her team to the state finals while picking up all-conference honorable mention and making the Eastern Maine all-tournament team. In her final season she averaged 10.2 ppg, 4.7 apg, 2.1 spg, and 4.8 rpg, and was again named to the Eastern Maine all-tournament team, but this time added tournament MVP to her resume. She was named 1st team all-conference and was an all-state honorable mention choice. Coach Waldeck is pleased to add her to the mix saying, "Julie had an amazing high school career. She has overcome numerous obstacles while yielding great results on the floor. She brings depth to the point guard position for us. Her competitive fight makes her an underrated defender, but she possesses the great ability to make those around her better."
Smith, who first heard of The Master's College through her pastor, said of her commitment, "I chose The Masters College because it has godly teachers and principles. Also it gives me the freedom to make the right choices and I am held accountable to ensure my success.
Next, the Mustangs looked to boost their inside presence and once again tapped into the Northwest pipeline that has brought in a steady influx of players from Oregon and Washington over the past 10 years. They came up big and found two 6'2" transfers. After struggling to be healthy at the post spot in 2010-11, the Mustangs have gone above and beyond to bolster their post presence with the signing of center Theresa Brown's former juco teammate, Kristin Huff, and younger sister, Tami. Both players provide instant length, depth, and skill to complement the power and athleticism in Theresa Brown and forward Morgan Schwegler.
Huff, a 6'2" transfer from Lane Communicty College, is a perfect complement for the high-low offense Waldeck's squad began running last year. She and Brown played the same type of offense together in Brown's final season at LCC and Huff has experienced playing both sides--the top and the bottom. She has a great ability to make the entry pass from the top and can also finish inside with patience and an uncanny touch around the hoop. In her final season at Lane, Huff averaged 17 ppg, 9 rpg, and just over two blocks per game, helping lead the Titans to a fourth-place finish at the NWAACC Championships. She also set the school's all-time record for shots blocked with 97.
Waldeck said of the signing, "Kristen brings length and athleticism where we needed it most. She is a high-percentage finisher around the rim and will provide a great scoring punch for us on the block. Her ability to run the floor and score in transition is fantastic for her size, and she is a tremendous addition for our team."
Huff commented, ""I can't wait to experience playing the game I love with the Lady Mustangs who share the same love for the game and the Lord."
Also coming into to strengthen the Mustang's inside game is Tami Brown. The Mustangs recruited Brown out of high school but the 6'2" multi-sport athlete decided, instead, to take a scholarship to play volleyball at Oregon State. She was also able to contribute to the Beaver basketball team this season, making appearances in 16 games. Now ready for a new experience, Brown has decided to bring her talents to The Master's where she will also be a dual-sport athlete, playing for Bobby Blanken's volleyball squad in the fall, as well. Brown proved her all-around abilities in high school and college. Starting in high school she was a McDonald's All-American Nominee 2009 (Basketball), KMTR Prep Athlete of the Week in the Spring of 2009, 1st-team all-conference in 2008 (volleyball), second-team all-state in 2008 (volleyball), 2006 & 2007 Most Improved Player (volleyball), 1st-team all -league catcher in 2008 & 2009 (softball), all-league honorable mention in 2007 (basketball), and 2nd-team all-league in 2008 (basketball). While at OSU she showed her abilities in the classroom by being named a 2nd-team All-Academic PAC-10 selection in 2010 (volleyball) and an Honorable Mention All-Academic PAC-10 selection in 2011 (basketball). Photo by Dennis Wolverton.
Brown is a long and strong athlete who is fully capable of hitting the outside shot, finding an open player, or posting up inside. Coach Waldeck is ecstatic to have Tami Brown in a Mustang uniform at last, "Tami is the perfect complement for our 2011-12 squad. Her collegiate experience will reap major dividends for us. Her size, strength, and athletic ability are game changers, but I believe it's her skill set, confidence, and versatility that will be most dynamic. She's a great passer and perimeter shooter with physical ability to get work done in the paint."
With the point guard and post spots solidified, the Lady Mustangs were blessed with the late signing of a dynamic and versatile wing player in Millie Rivera from Allen, Texas. The Mustangs had hoped to bolster their athletic ability on the wing and found a player with skill, speed, and success. The sister of current Mustang Lena Rivera, the 5'8" athlete is lanky, quick, and has a natural tenacity to defend. In her time at Lovejoy High School, Rivera was a four-year starter for the varsity team. She was named 1st-team all-district all four years (2007-11) and the team MVP twice ( 2007-08 and 2008-09). In her final season, she averaged 15.3 ppg and was named to all-region and all-state squads. Increasing her production to 19 ppg during the playoffs, she led her team to the 3A state final game and was aptly named to the all-state tournament team. She finished with 610 points in the 2010-11 season and was named Offensive MVP for her team. Rivera left Lovejoy with the school record for most 3-pointers in a game (6 in the 2010 area playoff game) and a career-high and record 29 points in the 2011 area final game.
Coach Waldeck said of Rivera, "Millie is a game changer. Her speed and athleticism are at an elite level. Combine that with her work ethic and pedigree and she has all the makings of a great player. She can score, finish in transition, and has an unmatched competitive fight. She could be one of the best defenders we've ever signed out of high school."
Millie said of her decision to come to TMC, "I chose The Master's College because I love the environment and its location in beautiful California. More importantly, I felt it was God who led me to choose The Master's and I'll get the opportunity to grow closer to him. I liked the team and the coaches, and I get the chance to play with my sister, Lena."
Looking at his entire incoming class, Waldeck feels good about what 2011-12 will bring. "I couldn't be more thankful to the Lord for who He has brought to our program for this next year. Not only will these ladies represent our program well on the floor, but they are the exact type of people that we want here at The Master's. Their sincere love for the Lord, teammates, personal growth, and the game of basketball, make them one our most dynamic recruiting classes we've had here. They are already loved by our team and represent our Lord with high integrity."