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SOC boasts bumper crop of talent

North's Dolinda Meeker, left, and Ericka Brosterhous are among a selectgroup of players drawing attention from colleges.

It could be a record-setting year for Southern Oregon Conference girlsbasketball.

It's a record not based on wins and losses or points and rebounds. Rather,skill, size and quickness are the factors that set this season apart.

Generally speaking, it's a good year when one or two SOC players warrantfull scholarships from NCAA Division I programs and a couple more go toDivision II schools. The present crop could produce as many as nine scholarshipplayers.

Two of the tallest members of the SOC's Class of 1998 -- North Medford'sEricka Brosterhous and Ashland's Djuna Wilhelm -- signed national lettersof intent Wednesday, the first day of the November signing period. Brosterhouscommitted to Oregon State and Wilhelm to Portland State.

When the last t is crossed and i dotted, Crater'sCaryn Ross, twins Chassie and Cherrith Wiersma and Teri Schneider, NorthMedford's Dolinda Meeker, Eagle Point's Becky Gregory and Roseburg's SarahWolf may sign letters of intent.

That's not a bad crew, says North Medford coach Mike Kay.For our population base, the number of kids shown interest by collegesis pretty amazing.

Kay and Crater coach David Heard formed a select team, including mostof the players named above, for summer tournaments. The venture sharpenedskills, built camaraderie among the region's premier players and presentedthem to college recruiters.

We all like to say colleges flock to Southern Oregon to look atour players, Kay says. The truth is that the kids have to goto where the college coaches are.

The elements that produced the Class of '98 are varied. Several of theplayers moved here during their high school careers; others have deep familyties. Some hooked up with successful programs, others are the reason fortheir school's success.

Their experience, in terms of games played, far exceeds what the bestplayers in their programs played even at the start of the '90s.

They play dozens of summer games, but aren't necessarily one-sport wonders.They've had success in volleyball, soccer, softball and track and field.

I credit a lot of the interest in Oregon to Oregon City's success,Crater coach David Heard says.

Oregon City has dominated the state in basketball during the 1990s andfinished the past two seasons ranked No. — by USA Today.

You see Oregon girls recruited all across the country, Heardsays. Fundamentally, the kids are good and they understand the game.

Maybe not every kid we had on our select team this summer couldplay Division I, but almost every kid could play Division II.

Brosterhous and Wilhelm were the most attractive to recruiters becauseof their height.

Big kids get more looks, Ashland coach Heather Roberts says.There aren't that many big kids. Tall kids definitely luck out. Ifyou're 5-7, the competition is that much greater.

Brosterhous is 6-foot-3, the offspring of two professional basketballplayers. Six-foot-10 B.G. Brosterhous starred at Klamath Union, played forthe University of Texas and later professionally on Europe where he metand married Annie Holville a 5-foot-11 French Olympian.

Brosterhous was born in Monte Carlo. She was raised in Roquebrune CapMartin, northeast of Nice, and played on the same local club team for whichher mother played.

When her parents divorced, Brosterhous' father moved to Salem. As shecontemplated her academic future, America -- more precisely, Oregon -- becamea viable option.

I wanted to make it easier on myself and for everybody in my family,says the 18-year-old.

She joined her dad and stepmother, Sue, in Salem and enrolled as a sophomoreat Sprague. She beat out a senior to start at center and then put up superiornumbers as a junior: averaging 15 points, five assists and eight rebounds.

But her team wasn't among the Valley League's elite teams. Now that shehas moved to Medford, that has changed. North Medford will contend withCrater for the SOC title and the Black Tornado should find itself amongthe state's top 10.

Before choosing Oregon State, she visited Oregon and Pepperdine.

I've been to Oregon State quite a few times, Brosterhoussays. When there's a packed house I've thought `Whoa, I want to bedown there on the court playing.'

Wilhelm lacks Brosterhous' athletic pedigree, but the men in her mom'sfamily range up to 6-5 and the women around 6-0.

I've always been real tall, says the 6-foot-2 Wilhelm, whobegan playing YMCA ball in Ashland in fourth grade.

Through a steady diet of AAU ball, Wilhelm developed skills that meshednicely with Sarah Petersen, the SOC's top scorer last year, as Ashland earnedits first trip to the state playoffs in a dozen years.

Wilhelm was playing for a Corvallis-based summer all-star team when shedrew Portland State's attention.

It's always been a dream of mine, but I didn't think I'd sign early,she says. I thought I would go through three or four years of workoutsand then see what was offered when I was through playing. But the biggerschools sign players early and I felt the time was right. Portland Statewas where I felt I belonged.

The time will come for others.

Chassie and Cherrith Wiersma came into the world as a package deal andthey aren't quite ready to break up a good thing.

After helping turn around Arlington High's program in Washington as sophomores,the Wiersma's played key roles in Crater's best-ever season.

Cherrith, a point guard, suffered a knee injury at last year's statetournament. She's not yet 100 percent, but should be come next month. Herabsence during the summer tournaments and camps left the future in doubt.

The twins want to go together and schools want to get a good lookat her first, Heard says.

Boise State, the University of the Pacific and San Francisco State haveexpressed interest.

Ross has some details to work out before settling on a school and Schneidermay opt to play for NAIA Western Baptist.

Meeker dominated many of the games she played in for Class 2A St. Mary'sthe past three years. But the 5-6 point guard never had anything like thesurrounding cast she'll have at North, setting the stage for what couldbe a banner year. Still, Meeker, the SOC's soccer player of the year, maybe swayed away from the hardwood.

Gregory has been the heart and soul of spunky Eagle Point team, settingall kinds of records during her four-year varsity career. She is being heavilyrecruited by Division II Colorado Christian.

Wolf has an offer from Alaska-Fairbanks, but is waiting until after theseason to decide.

Just how many basketball scholarships this class garners remains to beseen, but one thing seems certain: It'll be a season to remember in theSOC.

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SOC boasts bumper crop of talent