Kenai Central High School's Erica Shinn will be taking her hoop dreams to the next level.
Shinn, a senior at Kenai, has signed a national letter of intent to attend Western State College in Gunnison, Colo., where she will receive a scholarship to play basketball for the NCAA Division II Mountaineers of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
"I'm excited," Shinn said of her opportunity. "It was a tough decision whether to sign early. I went down there in October. I really got along with the coach. It was a positive experience, and I loved Gunnison. It reminds me of home."
Shinn said her scholarship will cover about 80 percent of her expenses, and that she plans to apply for academic scholarships to round out her package.
"It was one of those things that was too good to pass by," said Shinn's mother, Connie. "I'm glad that she took it."
Shinn said she had several colleges interested in her talent after Lyle Busbey, the Palmer girls coach, worked with her to put together a recruiting package. Busbey runs a recruiting service to help Alaskans gain exposure at Outside schools.
The Mountaineers are coached by Sandee Mott, who is in her second year as head coach. Western State finished 9-17 overall last year, and the Mountaineers are off to a 3-2 start this season.
Shinn expects to be playing in the post when she arrives at Western, and future plans have her moving to shooting guard.
Shinn said her rebounding was a selling point, and her October visit to the campus involved a session in the gym with Mott where Shinn ran several drills.
"She said that most likely, I'd play the four or five position my first year and eventually move to shooting guard," Shinn said. "I'm hoping to be a shooting guard next year. I've worked on my ballhandling, and I know what I need to do to get ready."
"I was pleasantly surprised she got offered what she did," said Kenai girls basketball coach Jim Beeson. "It's a good thing for basketball in Alaska any time one of our kids gets recognized."
Beeson said Division II basketball should be a good fit for Shinn, and added that, more importantly, Western has the academic programs in which Shinn is interested.
"She's realistic. She realizes that basketball is a way for her to pay for her education," Beeson said. "For her, it's a good thing that she's figured out what she wants to do."
Shinn said she'd like to study communications -- news broadcasting in particular -- and said that Western's had excellent programs and facilities to pursue that goal.
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