Former GJ player Stark wants to prepare for collegiate game
For Emily Stark it came down to five deciding factors to where the 6-foot-5 basketball player would go to college.
Stark, who played for Grand Junction as a freshman, sophomore and junior, in no specific order looked at what the highest level she could go and still have a chance to play early.
Second was being able to get better in practice every day, third was being able to get a good education in the engineering field, fourth was a program that had a real opportunity to go to the tournament every season and fifth was be a part of a family, somewhere that she was cared about.
What started out as 60 schools as a sophomore ended Sunday with Stark signing her letter of intent to attend the University of New Mexico at a friends home in Grand Junction surrounded by friends and family.
“Their coach (Don Flanagan) is a great developer and for me that is important,” Stark said. “I haven’t reached my potential and college is going to be a really good time for me to grow.”
Stark, whose family moved to Denver during the summer and currently attends Highlands Ranch High School, said the Lobos were one of the first schools to contact her but didn’t come into the picture until August when she took an official visit to Albuquerque. It was seeing the campus and facilities first hand that bumped New Mexico to the top of the list.
“I didn’t think I was going to like it,” Stark said. “But I went there and I loved it and I was like crap, because at the time it was West Point or Iowa and then all of a sudden New Mexico was number one.”
Stark had always considered Army as a possibility, but after visiting West Point, she said she realized it was just too far from home, especially after her father Doug suffered a stroke in February.
“I realized that (my parents) are not going to be there forever and if I can play in front of them for four more years I am happy to do that,” Stark said. “Plus the people are great and it has a small town atmosphere even though Albuquerque is bigger.”
Iowa always was high on Stark’s list. The Hawkeyes were the first to contact her, but in the end she saw Iowa and New Mexico at the same level, and choose to stay closer to home.
“It was (New Mexico) and Iowa were the first two to contact me and they ended up being the final two,” Stark said. “It was the middle of the Big Ten or the top of Mountain West, honestly those are pretty equal and I loved it at New Mexico.”
Stark said she is excited to play for a Lobos program that has won two straight Mountain West Tournaments and been to the NCAA tournament seven straight seasons. She added she expects the opportunity to play early in her career.
“I want to play as a freshman, and nobody has guaranteed anything, but the opportunity is there,” Stark said. “His whole thing is attitude and effort, and if I go in there with the right effort, I can play.”
But for now, Stark looks to take advantage of her senior year of high school playing for the defending 5A champions. Stark said she is excited to be challenged every day, playing against top players in the state.
“I love it and I get to play basketball every single day,” Stark said. “My experience at Junction was wonderful, but everyone here is so focused. I think this will help me become more ready for the college game.”