Leader Blues

Monday, April 30, 2007

SPORTS>>Jackrabbit guard signs with SAU

By JASON KING
Leader sportswriter

Lonoke senior Kristy Shinn will take the next step as a collegiate basketball player in the fall, when she heads to Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia. Shinn signed her letter of intent on Tuesday afternoon at the Lonoke gym in front of her teammates and the Lonoke Jr. girls team.

Shinn was a vital part of the Lady Jackrabbits’ trip to the state finals this past season, and has been on the All-Conference list for the past two years.

Lady Muleriders coach Sam Biley got his first look at Shinn during the 4A state championship game at Hot Springs back in March, and invited her to open tryouts.

“It’s exciting, but it’s scary also,” Shinn said of her upcoming tenure. “I know I need to improve some. It’s a small campus, but it seems like it is its own little community.”

Shinn averaged 10.2 points per game last season as one of the tallest guards in the 4A-2 Conference at 5’ 10”, and had 1.7 steals. She averaged 4.1 rebounds per game and led the team in assists with 3.6 per game.

“We knew how good she was last year in a lineup with two other strong guards,” Lady Jackrabbits coach Nathan Morris said. “But we didn’t know what kind of stand-alone player she would be whenever Meagan (Kelleybrew) and Libby (Gay) left us. She ended up all over the map for us. Some nights, she was our best defender and others she was the leading scorer. She seemed to come through wherever we needed her the most, and you always knew you would get maximum effort from her every night.”

Shinn’s signing was the third for Lonoke girls athletics in the last two years, and an announcement concerning fellow senior Calisha Kirk is expected within the next two weeks. Morris, who has taken a beating on message boards and rumor circles since the controversial finale to the title game with CAC, says the harsh words have little effect on him, as long as his girls continue to on to the next level.

“People can say whatever they want,” Morris said. “But this is the very reason we do things the way we do here. And as long as the girls continue to have success and move on to get a free college education, guess what? We will probably continue to do things that way.”

Shinn is one of three seniors that made up the core of the state runner-up team. While post player Jenny Evans has decided to attend junior college locally, Kirk will most likely play college ball, which would make four signings out of the six Lonoke seniors from the past two seasons.

Lady Muleriders coach Sam Biley says that while he was very impressed with Shinn’s overall athleticism, it was knowledge of her ruthless practice regimen that closed the deal for him.

“Kristy is a very hard worker,” Biley said. “We think that makes her a good fit for our program. We want girls with strong work ethics on our team. She can give us a good push off the bench, and I think she can become a great player once she comes in and begins to focus on one sport.”

After last season’s 9-5 finish in the Gulf South Conference in which SAU took third in the standings behind Arkansas Tech and Delta State, the Lady Muleriders lost five seniors, three of which were posts. Biley says that has been addressed with the signing of three six foot plus players, and a 5’7” guard to replace the departing point guard. Shinn, as a guard at 5’ 10”, will undoubtedly have most of the same advantages athletically in the Gulf South that she had as a Lady Jackrabbit.