Groh continues to grow Year 3 for FLC

Christie Groh appeared in just 20 of 31 games for Fort Lewis College last season. Now, the junior who has bided her time on the bench the last two seasons is flourishing in a starting role, averaging 11 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Skyhawks. Enlarge photo

Steve Lewis/Durango Herald file photo

Christie Groh appeared in just 20 of 31 games for Fort Lewis College last season. Now, the junior who has bided her time on the bench the last two seasons is flourishing in a starting role, averaging 11 points and 7.7 rebounds per game for the Skyhawks.

As the post players broke off for group drills, the lanky and long junior took her place in line.

No longer a wide-eyed freshman or underseasoned sophomore, Christie Groh found her way to a new spot in the orderly shuffle.

The front.

It’s Groh’s turn now for the Fort Lewis College women’s basketball team after two years of playing behind a litany of skilled frontcourt players under previous head coach Mark Kellogg. And she’s acclimated pretty well to her new position in the starting lineup, averaging 11 points and 7.7 rebounds per game in 29.7 minutes per game after averaging just 9.9 minutes and playing in just 20 of 31 games a season ago.

In other words, it’s a whole new world for the Grapevine, Texas, native.

“Just taking care of your body is a really huge thing,” Groh said. “You’re getting a lot more minutes, so you have to take care of your legs, you know, do ice baths.”

It’s a drastic jump in responsibility this seson for Groh. The last two years, she’s come off the bench to spell former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Player of the Year Dana Schreibvogel and well-rounded center Jenna Santistevan, and last year, the rotation got harder for her to crack with the addition of eventual RMAC Shootout MVP Jamie Simmons, who supplanted Groh as the first post option off the bench.

Instead of getting impatient or frustrated, Groh said she’s grateful for the lessons learned from what became an accomplished frontcourt bunch.

“Of course I wanted to play, but I totally respected all the older girls. They taught me a lot while I was a freshman and a sophomore. ... Now that I am getting more playing time, I’m going to be better because of them,” she said.

Head coach Jason Flores wasn’t sure what to expect from his inherited 6-1 center. He just knew the Skyhawks were losing a bulk of their frontcourt minutes and scoring, which wouldn’t be easy to replace. But once he saw Groh work in the gym, his worries slowly began to dissipate.

“I wasn’t sure of how it would shake out. At the beginning of the year when I knew she had a chance was her work ethic,” Flores said. “She worked her tail off. She worked hard in preseason. Every day, you know she’s going to bring that. If you can do that, you have a chance to become really good.

“She was itching to have her opportunity, that’s for sure. She waited, so now it was an opportunity for everyone, and she really stepped up and took it.”

The starting center mantel is hers. Now the focus is on figuring out how best to use her in a four-guard, one-post lineup. At times, the Skyhawks have lived and died with the 3-pointer this season. But with Groh and Kaile Magazzeni both scoring in double figures in a win over Adams State last week, FLC finally may have struck the balance Flores seeks – helped in part with Groh’s growing comfort with her back to the basket.

Not that Groh’s satisfied with just improving one aspect of her game. Not by any stretch.

“Everything, really,” she said. “Every day there’s something else to work on.”

rowens@durangoherald.com