BILLINGS — Earlier this week, MSU Billings lost its first game of the season at home to Black Hills State, 60-51.
Next week, the team plays four games in Alaska and two against conference rivals Alaska and Alaska Anchorage.
The team is finding success on a roster full of Montana players, which, it turns out, is nothing new to head coach Kevin Woodin and his program.
MSUB women’s basketball coach Kevin Woodin makes a living recruiting and winning with Montana players. So much so that a few years ago Yellowjacket’s entire roster was made up of players from the state. Which is impressive considering how the team plays at the NCAA Division II level. The current roster lists eight players from the Treasure State. Three are beginners and all are from small Class C programs.
“That’s something we’re proud of, and part of that is that I started out as a high school basketball coach at West High and those relationships that began a long time ago continue,” said MSUB women’s basketball head coach Kevin Woodin. “And back then I would put those Montana teams against any of those contiguous states and it continues to prove itself.”
We know one constant, Ft. Benton’s Aspen Giese, Scobey’s Kortney Nelson, and Winifred’s Dyauni Boyce all played multiple sports in high school. A fact not lost on these outstanding sophomores, who all agree keeping busy in the sport, clearly helped make the transition to the college game, where all thrived.
“I mean, I did three sports, which most girls do in Class C, you have to do all the sports,” said sophomore guard Aspen Giese. “I think that really helps, I know how you do sports all year, what you do in college basketball, we go all year.”
“As a small town, you’re always playing sports,” said second-year security guard Kortney Nelson. “Anything you do, you’re always in the gym and you’re always working hard with everyone at school, everyone’s playing sports, so I think work hard and find your way here.”
The team is currently in Alaska where they will play four games in a week. Frequent flyer miles add up for this team. But it has its perks, including a recent trip to Hawaii while the rest of us were huddled at home in an unexpected November cold snap.
“It’s so much fun going there and seeing everyone else posting ‘it’s snowing’ and ‘it’s so cold,’ and we’re at the beach right now,” Giese said.
“It was so much fun being able to travel to Hawaii, it was a lot of fun, it’s a quick turnaround that now leads to Alaska,” said second forward Dyauni Boyce.
“We’re going to see how we go from 80 degrees and sun to -10 degrees in 10 days, so about a 90 degree change in 10 days,” Woodin said.
Three starters who together score almost 30 points per game. This trio’s small-town roots are paying off in big ways, and with the return of top scorer Taryn Shelly expected when conference games begin in January, who knows how far this team can go with a little Montana pride.
“The three of us actually live together, so that’s kind of cool,” Nelson said. “We all get along really well, it’s cool to see we’re all mostly from Montana, but we’re also all very different, from different places and it’s cool to see how we all connect and play basketball together be able.”
“It’s really cool that we all played against each other, competed against each other, but now it’s even more fun to come in and play with each other instead of playing against each other,” Boyce said. “And living together has been going really well, so it’s been really fun.”
“I mean, Dyauni and I were in the same division, Northern C, so I watched her dominate in high school and she watched me,” Giese said. “So it’s fun to come here and talk about our experiences because they’re all very similar.”
Just this week, Coach Woodin announced the signing of two players, and you guessed it, both are from Montana. Layla Baumann of West High and Avery Burhart of Bozeman, both went to the Yellowjackets next year.