Set for a two-sport test
Kelly Stephens proved long ago that she has what it takes ” and then some ” to compete with the best varsity basketball and softball players the Nevada 3A has to offer.
Now, after four years on the varsity softball team and three years of varsity basketball, the Truckee High senior is prepared to test the waters at the next level.
And she’s not settling for just one sport.
Stephens, a scrappy point guard and speedy leadoff hitter and shortstop, will play basketball and softball as a freshman at College of the Siskiyous, a junior college located in Weed, Calif., at the base of Mount Shasta.
“I think she’s gonna be a real good addition,” Tom Powers, head coach of the College of the Siskiyous basketball team, said of his incoming guard. “She’ll fit in real good with her speed, and she seems like she’s willing to learn. We’re looking forward to having her here.”
The coach’s sentiment is reciprocated.
“I’m excited to play with girls that are as intense as me and have the same goals,” said Stephens, who received first team all-league and all-state honors this past season and second team all-league and all-state honorable mention her junior year. “I think it’s a good match.”
Stephens got a feel for the Eagles’ basketball squad ” which ranked No. 3 in the state last season ” when she joined the team for a practice on a recruiting trip in February. While the experience was somewhat daunting, Stephens said, it turned out well for both sides.
“I didn’t know what to expect,” Stephens said of the workout. “I didn’t know if I was going to be better than players at the JC level or if they were all going to be better than me. Luckily I was in shape because basketball had just ended. It was perfect. I think it will be a good fit.”
Powers agreed. That one session was all he needed to see.
“She’ll make the team,” he said. “I think she’s gonna be real good for us.”
She’ll also have the opportunity to step in and compete for a starting job, Powers said.
“Oh sure,” he said when asked. “We run so much we’re always rotating players, so she’s definitely gonna see court time either way.”
Truckee High girls basketball coach Angelo Tenorio is well aware of his former point guard’s capabilities ” she averaged 12 points a game, four rebounds, three steals and 4.5 assists last season. With what he’s learned during his three years coaching her, he has little doubt that she will make an impact on her new team.
“I think she’ll be able to help out a lot,” he said. … “She knows the game really well. She can adjust her game to be a defensive stopper or a scorer, and she can play either guard position. She’s not afraid to change and do something else to help the team.”
The senior is as much of a team player in softball, too, said Truckee coach Mitch Brown.
“Very rarely did she not leave everything on the field,” Brown said. “She’ll give you 100 percent every time on the field, whether she’s sick or not. It’s very hard to keep her out of the lineup. She doesn’t allow that.”
And she performs pretty well when in the lineup.
In 16 league games this past season, Truckee’s switch-hitting leadoff batter finished with a .327 average, with a .468 on-base percentage, 29 stolen bases, 18 runs, 16 hits, 11 walks and five RBIs in 49 at-bats.
Her strength, Brown said, is her speed and ability to bunt and slap hit from both sides of the plate, not to mention her solid defense at shortstop.
“She’s one of the fastest girls on the team, she can bunt and defensively she’s nails,” Brown said.
Asked why he brought her up to varsity as a freshman, the coach said, “Because she has heart and passion. She showed us something in the gym during tryouts. She’ll run through a wall for you.”
Doug Eastman, head coach of the College of the Siskiyous softball team, will have plenty of time to observe her in action, as Stephens must play through a 15- to 20-game fall ball schedule before final cuts are made.
Thus far, all he has seen is what Stephens showed during a short tryout session in which she took a few swings and some reps in the outfield on her visit to the campus.
“I liked the fact that she’s very athletic,” Eastman said. “She runs well, she’s quick and she has some of those things every coach wants on their team.”
That said, it won’t be a cake walk to make the cut, he added. That’s because the Eagles are currently ranked No. 1 in the state, at 43-2 overall and 19-1 in Golden Valley Conference play. Thus far the team is 2-0 in the playoffs, with regionals this weekend on its home field.
“It’s gonna be a challenge for her,” Eastman said. “It’s gonna be a difficult transition to come from a small school to a program of this caliber. But she’s athletic. If her athleticism shows up I think she can do a great job.”
Brown has faith.
“She’s tenacious,” he said. “She’ll do just fine,”
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