HELENA — When Kamden Hilborn was starring in soccer, basketball and track and field at Helena High School, hometown Carroll College took notice. Fighting Saints coaches in each of the three sports showed interest in the recruiting game, but Montana State and its Division I basketball lure eventually won out, drawing Hilborn to Bozeman.
One year later, it’s Carroll College’s turn to celebrate.
Carroll announced Monday that Hilborn was transferring back home, joining the Fighting Saints’ women’s basketball and track and field programs, barely a month after Hilborn announced her decision to transfer from Montana State on Twitter.
“Obviously to get Kamden back here, I think she’s going to be a fan favorite. She’s obviously done some incredible things when she was at Helena High, and she’s just a winner,” said Carroll College women’s basketball coach Rachelle Sayers. “She’s somebody that we really wanted out of high school. Unfortunately we didn’t get her, but we’ll take her now, I guess. It is pretty exciting news for us.”
“She definitely made shots when she needed to make shots,” Sayers continued. “She’s one of those kids that can change the complexity of a game. Her defense, she creates a lot of chaos, she gets up into people, she’s quick, she’s athletic. Offensively, like you said, she loves to run, loves to push the ball, and she loves to pass. She is a scoring point guard, but she also is a great facilitator. We’re definitely looking forward to more of an up-tempo pace.”
“I’m excited. I think they like to get out and run, play fast. Defense is a big quality that they have and they focus a lot on it, that’s a big part of my game, I love that. I love that about them,” Hilborn said Monday after getting up shots at the Carroll P.E. Center. “Watching them play was awesome this year, and I see that and I’m like, ‘Oh, I think I could maybe fit in with that.’ We’ll see. It’s going to be hard and it’s going to be competition every day in practice, but that’s what I’m most excited about, is getting to compete with some of the best here. … Just the program here and how successful they’ve been, the culture they have is so unique. I think to be a part of that is so amazing. Seeing them compete this year, and playing against them this year even, I think it just seemed like the perfect fit.”
Hilborn appeared in 26 games for the Bobcats last season, averaging 10.5 minutes. She averaged 1.1 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists in those contests. She posted career highs of eight points (vs. Portland State on Jan. 3), four assists (three times) and three steals (vs. Texas State on Nov. 17).
She also competed for the Montana State track and field program this spring.
“I think I learned a lot of things, and I think I went through things that made me who I am and added along to my journey,” said Hilborn. “I’m excited to put those to the test here, continue to grow as a person and player, get an education and degree under a great university.”
Hilborn, who won five state championships in high school — two in soccer, two in basketball and one as an individual in pole vault — joins a Carroll College women’s basketball program loaded with guards, including key returners in Jaidyn Lyman, Dani Wagner and Sienna Swannack. Sayers also recruited Three Forks standout Kyle Olson, along with Butte’s Ally Cleverley and Bigfork’s Rakiah Grende.
“We’re going to have a smaller lineup, as we did last year, and I think with Jaidyn Lyman coming back, Sienna Swannack coming back, Dani Wagner coming back, we have a lot of guards that want to get out and run,” said Sayers. “Two of them (Lyman and Swannack) played a lot of the point position, so between those two and Kamden, we’re going to have to figure out how to make that all work, but we’ve got some time to do that.”
“I think just the hard work and dedication will get you a long way. I matured a lot as an athlete over in Bozeman, and as a person, too, I think,” Hilborn said. “I’m just excited to get to work and get to continue to get better under Coach Sayers and the other coaches here. Yeah, just continue to up my game and be the best that I can be.”
Hilborn, the 2018 Class AA pole vault champion, says she also looks forward to continuing her track and field career for Hall of Fame coach Harry Clark.
“It’s unique that they’re willing to let me be able to vault while still playing basketball. Harry is Harry, he’s always in my ear giving me crap and stuff,” Hilborn laughed. “But I’m excited to get to vault under him and then to get to play here, it’s going to be good.”
Which coach is more excited to lure Hilborn back to her hometown? Clark or Sayers?
“I think probably me, I get her a little longer than he gets her, and he gets her for only one event, while I get her for eight months,” said Sayers. “It’s definitely going to be great for both of us, and she’ll be great for the track team, as she will be for us, but I think I get the better end of that. I get her a lot longer.”