Wabash Valley —
Two standout senior basketball players were among several Wabash Valley athletes who made previous college sports commitments official this week, with others expected to make their commitments official soon.
Terre Haute North senior basketball player Matt O’Leary was one of four athletes to sign with Loyola (Chicago), joining Muncie Central forward Nick Osborne and Illinois guards Darell Combs of South Holland and Jeff White of Peoria Manual.
Murray State Head Women’s Basketball Coach Rob Cross announced the signing of two players to the 2012-13 team during the early signing period, as Kelsey Dirks of Robinson and Mississippi guard Erika Sisk signed National Letters of Intent to play with the Racers.
New Loyola coach Porter Moser, who previously was the head coach at Illinois State, is pleased with his first recruiting class at the school.
“Our staff has worked tirelessly to identify kids and recruit them,” Moser said. “We identified speed, shooting ability, mobility and toughness as our primary needs and we feel we addressed those initial needs with this first class.”
A 6-foot-7 forward, O’Leary contributed 9.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.3 blocks per game in 2010-11. O’Leary is an accomplished shooter who knocked down 40 percent (36 for 89) of his three-point field goal attempts last season and shot 50 percent (92 for 185) from the field overall to help his squad to an 18-8 overall record.
“Matt has tremendous range on his shot for someone who is 6-foot-8 but he is more than just a shooter,” Moser said. “He has worked very hard to develop a pull-up shot and on his dribble drive to the basket. Matt has a long arms and a frame that can allow for 15 more pounds. He plays in arguably the best conference in the state of Indiana where he is seeing top competition night in and night out. He comes from a culture where winning is paramount.”
Cross has added another Wabash Valley product to his program, as Dirks will join Rockville’s Beth Mahurin next season. Mahurin is a freshman.
“We are thrilled to be associated with the two young women that officially became Racers this week,” said Cross. “First and foremost Erika and Kelsey are fantastic students and outstanding young ladies. They will represent the Racers Family exceptionally well, both on and off of the court. We expect Kelsey and Erika to have an immediate impact on our program the moment they arrive on campus.”
Dirks, a key starter for Robinson High School was an Illinois Basketball coaches Association Class 1A-2A pick in 2011. During her junior season she averaged 18.2 points, 11.2 rebounds, 3.9 blocks, 1.6 assists and 1.6 steals per game for the Lady Maroons. The 6-3 center was also an Associated Press Class 2A All-State pick in 2011. A strong shooter, she has averaged over 55 percent from the field since her freshman campaign.
She also maintains a 4.0 GPA.
“Kelsey has a chance to become a terrific player at our level because of her unique combination of length, athletic ability and work ethic,” said Cross. “She is a skilled post player, with the range to step out and knock down the three. We are extremely excited about her ability to rebound the basketball and alter shots on the defensive end. Her demeanor on the court is outstanding and she possesses all of the qualities we look for in a leader.”
• Bits and pieces — Terre Haute North grad Zach Mayhew earned all-Big Ten Conference honors for the third straight year with an 11th place finish in the Big The Championships on Oct. 30 in a time of 23:56.
• Shakamak grad Anthony Witt was named the Midwest Region Athlete of the Year after winning last weekend’s NCAA Division II Midwest Regional cross country crown in a time of 31:58, beating teammate Tyler Emmorey by two seconds.
Witt’s was named the regional athlete of the year award marked the fourth straight season that a GVSU runner has earned the honor.
Witt and the Lakers are training for the NCAA Division II National Championship, which will be run on Saturday in Spokane, Wash.
• Terre Haute North freshman David Knight and Terre Haute South senior Derrelle Hankins are members of the nation’s top-ranked NAIA football team, as the Marian Knights have gone from a new startup program five years ago to the No. 1 ranking after being previously top-ranked Saint Xavier 27-9 last weekend.
Marian, led by former Rose-Hulman Coach Ted Karras, is 10-0 on the season.
• Chad Killinger, former women’s head coach at Lincoln Trail, has returned to the JUCO level as a head coach after one year as an assistant at Marshall.
He is now the head coach at Moberly Area Community College in Missouri.
Killinger has 15 years of collegiate basketball experience, 11 of those seasons coming at the junior college level. He served four years as head coach at Lincoln Trail, where he posted a record of 91-36, including a NJCAA Women’s National Tournament appearance in 2010.
Killinger and Terre Haute South grad Tessa Johnson both left LTC after the 2009-2010 season for Marshall. Johnson is also not returning to Marshall and has ended her collegiate career.
Johnson’s former South teammate Dragana Grbic has also ended her two-year Butler career.
Joey Bennett is a former Tribune-Star sports reporter and copy editor who now teaches at Northview High School in Brazil. He can be reached at email@example.com..