By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Coming off a state men’s title and another women’s playoff appearance, Santa Rosa Junior College basketball standouts are ready for the next level.
The recruiting process is in full swing as players visit campuses and meet with coaches, seeking the best fit to stay in the game. The basketball signing period for the 2014-15 season runs into May for NCAA Division I and until August for NCAA Division II.
That these players can continue at four-year programs is largely a result of seasons spent at the junior college improving skills and strength as well as becoming students of basketball.
Breakout season for Kobre
A breakout season capped by state tournament most valuable player honors has Alec Kobre considering several major college basketball programs.
The sharpshooter from Montgomery High helped Santa Rosa to the program’s first California Community College Athletic Association men’s basketball title.
“When you win a state champ everyone gets a lot of good looks from schools,” he said.
Among the schools showing interest in Kobre are NCAA Division I programs Idaho, Sacramento State and Lamar.
Santa Rosa’s second-leading scorer and one of the state’s top 3-point shooters, Kobre made CCCAA All-State and Big 8 Conference All-League. Becoming a better player at both ends of the court helped Kobre earn those honors.
“The biggest improvement was on the defensive end,” Kobre said. “I knew I was going to get open and hit shots. I just needed to play good defense.”
Kobre is another in a line of players who developed into major college caliber athletes under the tutelage of SRJC coach Craig McMillan.
Out of high school, Kobre took a redshirt season while practicing with the SRJC team.
“I wasn’t ready physically and mentally to play, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten a lot of playing time,” Kobre said.
Then in his first season, Kobre played behind Bobby Sharp and Max Fujii. Sharp had a strong junior campaign at Portland University. Another former Bear Cubs great, Kevin Aronis, just completed a very good career at New Mexico State, including two trips to the NCAA tournament.
“My goal going into this past season was to kind of follow in their footsteps,” Kobre said.
Kobre also is quick to credit teammates for success he and the Bear Cubs enjoyed this championship season.
“We were confident. We knew there was not one team we couldn’t beat in the state,” Kobre said.
Santa Rosa’s leading scorer, Matt Hayes, is expected to have an opportunity to play major college basketball next season.
The all-state selection and conference most valuable player played one year at Santa Rosa. Hayes went to Pleasant Grove High in Elk Grove, outside Sacramento.
Harrigan headed for Sac State
California women’s scoring champion Gretchen Harrigan will play at Sacramento State next season, and teammate Stephanie Sack also expects to extend her college career at a state school.
“I really like that it’s close to home. My family means a lot to me,” Harrigan said of her choice in Sacramento State.
After joining Harrigan to help lead SRJC to the state quarterfinals, Sack is narrowing her likely choices. Cal State Los Angeles, Monterey Bay and Dominguez Hills are on her short list.
“It’s exciting thinking that I can continue to play in college,” Sack said.
Teammates in youth basketball and at Casa Grande, the pair took different paths to rank among the best this past season in the CCCAA. Harrigan was a CCCAA All-State First Team selection and Sack an All-State Third Team pick. In Big 8 Conference play Harrigan was the most valuable player and Sack was All-League.
Coming out of high school Harrigan signed at Chico State. But she only stayed one semester and did not play for the Wildcats.
As she learned to appreciate, Harrigan said she was not ready to go away to school and be a student athlete.
“I may not have been equipped with the skills that I needed,” she said. “Some of my priorities might have got out of place. I was trying to do it all and that’s hard to do.”
Finding a fresh start at SRJC with guidance from women’s coach Lacey Campbell and her staff, Harrigan settled into school and her dedication to basketball.
“I learned how to value being a student athlete,” Harrigan said. “Not everyone gets that opportunity. It’s really a privilege.”
Always a scorer all over the court, Harrigan improved her post game, defense, and basketball smarts.
“I spent a lot of time building up endurance. In the season I had that extra kick,” she said.
Helping set up Harrigan for those many scoring chances was Sack, one the state’s top point guards in two seasons at Santa Rosa.
“The potential was always there. I just had to work at it,” Sack said.
Sack’s next stop in college will be a program that needs a playmaker who can score in the clutch. What they will also get is a strong outside shooter who rebounds very well for her size.
Santa Rosa provided the opportunity to develop into a player ready for the next challenge in college basketball.
“I had to get stronger and play bigger for my size,” Sack said. “Playing with confidence and learning to work with new players was big.”
Attending junior college also helped Sack settle on a major course of study. Sack wants to pursue a career in criminal justice.
“It was just a fun experience,” Sack said.
California Community College Athletic Association All-State: First Team Matt Hayes (Pleasant Grove, Elk Grove); Honorable Mention Alec Kobre (Montgomery). Co-Coach of the year, Craig McMillan
Big 8 Conference All-League: MVP Hayes; Kobre; Brian Johnson (Maria Carrillo). Coach of the Year, McMillan
California Community College Athletic Association All-State: First Team Gretchen Harrigan (Casa Grande high); Third Team Stephanie Sack (Casa Grande high)
Big 8 Conference All-League: MVP Harrigan; Sack