Colorado-Colorado Springs hopes Saturday’s inaugural Downtown Classic will attract more area talent like Shannon Kelly to a women’s basketball program enjoying its best start in school history.
The 5-foot-9 sophomore combo guard is a key reserve for the Mountain Lions (8-2) as they prepare to host Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rival Colorado State-Pueblo at City Auditorium in a women’s and men’s doubleheader.
Kelly, who redshirted last season, is averaging 2.2 points and 1.5 rebounds in 7.5 minutes and is one of the first off the bench, thanks to her defense.
“I knew from the get-go that I wanted to play in the RMAC and started looking here,” the former Pine Creek point guard said. “I liked the coaching style and philosophy, but the biggest part why is I am a homebody. It was important for me to play near home.”
Third-year coach Corey Laster hopes events like the doubleheader will grab the attention of possible recruits from a Division II-rich pool in southern Colorado and Denver.
“There will always be kids who want to leave home but Colorado is a becoming a great Division II state, particularly in women’s hoops,” Laster said. “This is a great way to draw attention to our athletic department. There is a lot of talent in Colorado Springs and we are hoping to keep most of that here.”
That includes 2013 signee Shanah Leaf of Palmer and likely a few more in the spring signing period, he added.
Other former area high school standouts playing at UCCS include Lewis-Palmer’s Kai Brown, The Classical Academy’s Taylor Garcia and McKenna Haist and Peyton’s Sam Patterson. Fifteen of the 18 on the roster are in-state recruits.
Kelly may work her way into the starting lineup next season, Laster said. In the interim, she will keep working on her offensive skills to become a well-rounded player.
The Mountain Lions men (1-9) are looking for locals such as two-year starter Alex Koehler from Rampart, who averages 6.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Koehler said he has developed his ball-handling skills to better contribute as a leader on the floor.
He is one of the few experienced players for new coach Jeff Culver, who brought in seven of the 11 Colorado players on the 15-man roster since he took over in May 2012.
“Recruiting-wise we want to work from the inside-out starting in our own backyard,” Culver said. “This event is a great opportunity for us to get out in the community and market our product.”
“This makes a big game even more fun,” Koehler said.