Malta guard Sophia Stiles verbally committed to play college basketball at the University of Montana. (MTN Sports photo)

MALTA – One of Montana’s top in-state basketball recruits is headed to Missoula.

Malta senior Sophia Stiles, the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, verbally committed to first-year head coach Shannon Schweyen and the Montana Lady Griz on Sunday night. Stiles announced her commitment on her Twitter account, and Malta head coach Nate Hammond confirmed her decision.

“I try to help as much as I can – getting (college) coaches game film, talking to those coaches – but where to go, what to do, is best left to the kids and their parents,” Hammond said. “I was happy to see (Stiles) took some college visits and didn’t make a quick decision. She thought it through pretty well, and I’m glad she got that squared away before her senior season. It’s nice to have that taken care of.”

Stiles has been a multi-sport standout for the M-Ettes the past three years, excelling in track and field and helping Malta win back-to-back Class B state basketball championships as a sophomore and junior. The M-Ettes haven’t lost a game since the 2014 state championship, a 60-55 overtime loss to Fairfield.

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Malta would defeat Colstrip for the 2015 state championship before meeting Fairfield in another title-bout in 2016. The M-Ettes prevailed for a hard-fought 49-47 win.

Stiles, a 5-foot-9 guard, averaged 17.1 points, 5.6 assists, 5.1 steals and 4.4 rebounds per game last season, playing alongside Hailey Nicholson, who just began her freshman year with the Lady Griz.

“Everybody knows how good of player Sophie is at the high school level,” Hammond said. “I think she’ll be successful collegiately because of those things you can’t put on a stat sheet. Yeah, she shoots 40 percent from 3, but she shoots 85 percent when the chips are down in a close tournament game. She played the second half and most of the second quarter with an ankle the size of a tennis ball at Four Seasons Arena (in Great Falls) against Forsyth (at the 2015 Class B state tournament). Those things will make her successful at the college level. As far as her athleticism and length and those things God helped give her, she’s going to take a backseat to nobody, even as a freshman.”

Schweyen was named Montana’s coach in early August after longtime coach Robin Selvig surprisingly stepped down. Selvig coached the Lady Griz for 38 seasons, with Schweyen serving 24 years as an assistant coach.

Stiles said she heavily considered signing with Montana State following Selvig’s departure, but eventually felt that Missoula was the right place for her.

“I was actually really considering Bozeman but I decided the Griz was where I was supposed to go,” said Stiles. “I was definitely disappointed that (Robin Selvig) wasn’t going to be there but I really like Shannon and I think she’s going to do really well with the program, she’s been there for so long. So she’ll take what’s good and maybe put her own twist on things and maybe make it even better.”

Ultimately, the tradition of the program led her to choose maroon and silver.

“When you’re a little girl growing up in Montana, your goal is to play for the Lady Griz.”

Malta guard Sophia Stiles verbally committed to play college basketball at the University of Montana. (MTN Sports photo)
Malta guard Sophia Stiles verbally committed to play college basketball at the University of Montana. (MTN Sports photo)

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