Soldotna senior Kaillee Skjold has signed a letter of intent to play basketball at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Skjold signed with the Division II Nanooks at the end of November.
UAF head coach Cody Burgess announced Wednesday that Skjold was one of three players inked by the Nanooks during the early signing period. The other two are forward Josie Broderick of North Pole and forward Jordan Wilson of Prairie View High School in Henderson, Colo.
“I’m super excited,” said Skjold, the daughter of Eric and Joy Skjold of Kasilof. “I think it’s going to be a great fit. I’m also excited to play basketball for my senior year at Soldotna.”
Skjold said she had long had interest in UAF, and UAF had long been interested in her, but Skjold said things got serious in the spring.
“I had been talking to her for a long time over email,” Skjold said of Burgess. “She had a lot of good things to say. I took a visit there, and like playing with the team. I also really liked the academic choices there.”
According to the UAF press release, Skjold holds a 3.98 grade-point average. She said she intends to major in emergency management.
The scholarship covers tuition, board and books, although it technically doesn’t cover all tuition. The tuition that is not covered will be covered by the UA Scholars Award, an $11,000 scholarship awarded to the top 10 percent of all graduating seniors from Alaska high schools to go to any of the 15 University of Alaska campuses.
Skjold’s roots in basketball come from the proud tradition at Ninilchik School. She grew up watching older sisters Heidi and Kjersten Skjold winning Class 2A state titles with the Wolverines.
“For an 8-year-old, that was huge to see and watch,” Kaillee said.
Soldotna girls coach Doug Blossom has known Kaillee her whole life. In fact, Blossom and Eric Skjold attended Ninilchik School together.
“Her whole life, she’s always been very aggressive and competitive,” Blossom said.
When Eric got a teaching job at Soldotna, Kaillee moved to Soldotna Middle School in the eighth grade. Before she even played for the Stars, she was traveling the country in the summer with a select team called Team Alaska.
“I played the summer before high school and it blew my mind,” she said. “It was a reach.”
By sophomore year, Skjold was helping Soldotna to the Class 4A tournament when Mark Tuter was the coach.
“I wasn’t the leader I needed to be yet,” Skjold said. “Jessie Duke and Becca Satathite knew what a leader was and definitely took us there.”
When Blossom took over before Skjold’s junior year, he moved her from the post to the wing.
“I’ve watched her growing up and I knew she would be able to do that,” Blossom said. “She leads the break well, leads the press, reads the floor well, knows when to trap and when to press. She shoots the ball better than people give her credit for, too.”
The Stars lost only three games before the Northern Lights Conference tournament, where they were runner-up and qualified for state. SoHi finished sixth at state and Skjold made the all-tournament team.
SoHi has its sights set higher this year.
“Senior year is a lot of fun,” Skjold said. “I’m playing with girls I’ve been playing with for a long time. We’re having a blast.”
Blossom said Skjold has also developed another side to temper her competitiveness. She brings a guitar and sings with the team on road trips, and also leads singing at church on Sundays.
“That’s been a big leap in my maturity — finding a way to relax because I’m so competitive,” Skjold said.
It is all those qualities that has Burgess excited about adding her to the class.
“Kaillee is a great student and individual and she’s a fantastic ball player,” Burgess said in a released statement. “She’s going to be a strong addition to our program. She can play a little post, a little guard and incredibly athletic and strong. She will represent us well and has done a great job in her high school career.”