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Butte’s Cleverly, Bigfork’s Grende sign with Carroll College women

Posted at 12:12 PM, Nov 15, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-15 14:12:19-05

(Editor’s note: Carroll College athletics release)

HELENA — Carroll College Saints women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers announced the signing of four recruits and the official commitment of one more in her 2019-20 recruiting class.

The Saints added guard Erica Nissan of Spokane, Washington, guard Kirsten Koehnke of Salem, Oregon, guard Rakiah Grende of Bigfork, Montana, and forward Genesis Wilkinson of Spokane, Washington, and received an official commitment from Ally Cleverly.

Grende’s path to the Saints has been an extraordinary one. The 5-8 guard has only played one full year of high school hoops due to an injury and a cancer diagnosis her sophomore season. After beating cancer, she returned to the hardwood and led Bigfork to a 21-3 record, a divisional championship and a state berth. She led her team in assists and was the second leading scorer and rebounder with 10 points and five rebounds per game.

“I am so excited to have Rakiah in our program,” Sayers said. “She is such an inspiration to us all. She has been through so much and has such a great outlook on her experience and life in general. I know that the sky is the limit for her. She has only had one full year of high school basketball and so we are just seeing a little glimpse of the player she is going to be. I definitely believe she is going to make a huge impact on our program, community and Carroll College.”

She was selected as a first team all-conference player and became the Mission Valley All-Star Game MVP.

Cleverly of Butte High officially committed to the Saints to play both basketball and soccer. The 5-6 guard from Butte is a four-year letter winner in soccer, including a two-time all-state selection and four-time academic all-state selection. On the hardwood, entering her senior season, Cleverly is a three-year starter and two-year captain of the Bulldogs. She’s been a three-time selection for the Southwest Montana All-Star team. Last season she averaged 8.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, two assists and one steal per game. She shot 76 percent from the foul line.

“Ally is a tremendous athlete with a very high motor,” Sayers said. “She has been a great leader and has excelled in everything she has done. I am very excited that she has chosen to do both basketball and soccer at Carroll College. I know that she will impact both teams in her time here.”

She’s also an accomplished track athlete, having been a three-time academic all-state selection and three-time state qualifier as a sprinter.

“I never thought I’d have the chance to play basketball and soccer in college,” Cleverly said. “When I considered Carroll’s academic reputation and the history of the basketball and soccer programs, it made my decision easy. I appreciate the opportunity Coach Sayers and Coach (Dave) Thorvilson have offered me.”

Nissan is a 5-7 guard out of Mead High. She averaged eight points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and two steals per game. She was selected as the team MVP last season. She’s lettered in basketball, soccer and golf.

“Erica is such a fundamentally sound player on both ends,” Sayers said. “She will be a great defender at this level and can play the point as well as shooting guard. She has a great feel on the court and can get to the rim or beat you with a jump shot. We have been watching Erica for a long time and it’s exciting to know she will be in a Saints uniform next year.”

Nissan joins a host of Spokane players on the Saints roster, continuing a rich recruiting tradition.

“I am really excited to continue my education and basketball career at Carroll,” Nissan said. “Both of my parents grew up in Montana, and I have lots of family and friends there, so I’m ready to become a part of the Montana community. Being able to consider these players as teammates is a dream come true. I cannot wait to be a Saint.”

Koehnke comes to the Saints after compiling a standout resume at Salem Academy in Salem, Oregon. The 5-5 guard has started every season and twice been an all-conference and all-state selection. Last season, she helped lead Salem Academy to the 3A Oregon State Championship game. She also played for one of Oregon’s premiere club basketball organizations, the Oregon Elite. She averaged 10.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.5 steals per game and shot 80 percent from the foul line and 39 percent from the field.

“Kirsten comes from a great club program in the Oregon Elite,” Sayers said. “She is a tremendous shooter with big time range. She can play the point or off guard positions and can really light it up. I love her work ethic and the variety of ways she can score. She is going to be a great addition for us and will really open up the floor for her teammates with her shooting ability.”

Wilkinson will join the Saints after she finishes her prep career at East Valley High in the Spokane, Washington, area. She averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks her junior year. She was selected as a first team all-conference performer as well as the conference’s MVP. She landed on the Washington and Washington-Idaho all-state teams. She’s twice been named the Nike End of The Trail Tournament MVP.

She is also an all-state performer in track and field.

“Genesis is a perfect fit for us,” Sayers said. “She is a great finisher and an amazing rebounder. She comes from a great club program, in the Spokane Legacy, and has been playing at a very competitive level with them. I love her competitiveness. She is just a great kid and fits in already with our team. We have been working hard on her for a long time and she had a ton of offers on the table, so for her to choose Carroll College is a big win for us.

Wilkinson also rejoins former Spokane Legacy teammates Christine Denny and Sienna Swannack.

“The loving community and fantastic coaching is just a small part of all the amazing aspects that Carroll College provides,” Wilkinson said. “As soon as I went on my first visit there, I knew it was a perfect fit for me.”