Toughness a staple of Wagner’s 2014 recruiting class
Taylor Wagner was looking for a few characteristics in his latest recruiting class for the Colorado Mesa women’s basketball team.
Scoring, because the six players who graduated accounted for all but 10 of the 75 points the Mavericks averaged per game.
Leadership, because he lost those six seniors.
Definitely players who will compete for playing time, creating depth that was somewhat lacking this past season.
At the top of the list, though, was toughness, a staple of his program. The more players who come from winning programs and show the work ethic the Mavericks have adopted the past two years, the better.
“It’s a little bit harder to surrender when you’ve had success, and we want to keep that,” Wagner said of his seven signees, five transfers and two incoming freshmen.
“The kids we’ve signed, I think they’ve played good competition, and they’ll have that work ethic instilled. They know what it takes to get deep in the playoffs, all the way through March.”
He went after plenty of depth at point guard, adding Laurin Rivera, a 5-foot-5 junior transfer from Western Nebraska Community College, and Carson Pipher, a 5-5 graduate of Paonia High School. Colorado Mesa will have four point guards on the roster next season.
“The thing I like about her is she’s tough,” Wagner said of Pipher, the daughter of Paonia wrestling coach Andy Pipher and the niece of CMU wrestling coach Chuck Pipher. “She’s physical, she’s smart (valedictorian, a 4.0 student and a member of the National Honor Society), and she’s gonna work hard.”
Rivera played in the NJCAA national tournament both years at Western Nebraska and is in the top 10 all-time in assists at the school. She can also score, averaging nearly 10 points per game.
“They all bring something different,” he said. “Laurin is quick. She might be the fastest on the team. It’s going to be really fun to see them all go at each other in practice.”
Rivera’s teammate at Western Nebraska, Ashley Stevens, is a 5-10 junior forward who signed. Stevens was an all-region and honorable mention All-America player as a sophomore.
“She’s a really tough, physical kid, really smart,” he said. “She’s just one of those kids who’s not afraid of anything.”
Two players from Western Nebraska’s rival in Region IX, Western Wyoming, are transferring to Mesa, 5-10 forward Emily Moore and 5-9 wing Shyanne Halalilo.
Moore made the all-region and all-tournament team this season and was honorable mention all-region as a freshman. Halalilo was honorable mention all-region this season.
And what would Wagner do if he didn’t have sister combinations?
Halalilo’s identical twin, Shanna, is transferring from Black Hills State for her senior year, giving the Mavs two sets of sisters (Siu and Saane Lo’amanu are the other).
Shanna wanted to play with her sister again, got her release from Black Hills and will be eligible to play right away. They’re both 5-9 wings from Orem, Utah.
“They’re big wings, and will be able to defend and rebound for us,” Wagner said. Shyanne redshirted one year because of a knee injury.
“We’re excited to have (Shanna) and her sister; it’ll be fun to see them on the floor together.”
Another sibling rounds out the recruiting class, Kelli Van Tassel, the younger sister of Trevor Van Tassel, a center on the CMU men’s basketball team.
Kelli, a graduate of Green Mountain High School, is a 5-9 wing who was the Rams’ leading scorer and rebounder her junior and senior years.
“She plays more on the perimeter than inside (like her brother),” Wagner said. “She can do a little bit of everything, and I think she’ll develop into a good player.”
Most of the players will be here this summer, working camps and getting to know one another on and off the court.
“That’s the thing, figuring out playing with each other,” Wagner said. “It’s something that will develop all year long. As a coaching staff, we’ll have to figure out what matchups work the best and who plays well together.
“That’ll just need some time to figure out. If early on some kids step up, it makes it easier on me to say, ‘OK, these kids need to be on the floor.’ ”