A pair of Bobcats are set to invade Denver this fall.
Ignacio High School’s Allisianna Baker-Marquez and Avionne Gomez will keep their basketball careers going after the duo signed National Letters of Intent to play basketball for Johnson & Wales University during a signing ceremony Monday at IHS.
“I’m just really proud of the two young ladies for their commitment,” Ignacio head coach Trae Seibel told Joel Priest of the Pine River Times. “To go on and play college basketball, with the opportunity that they had, I’m glad they chose this route and made their signing official.”
J&W has competed in the NAIA’s Association of Independent Institutions the past several years but is set to join the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference for the 2018-19 season.
The Wildcats went 5-17 overall and 1-7 in conference play during the 2017-18 season under second-year head coach Bob Kintzel.
Gomez, who tied the Colorado state record with 10 made 3-pointers in a game as a junior, led IHS with 16.5 points to go with 3.9 rebounds and 4.6 steals per game as a senior.
Baker-Marquez, who came off the bench last season, averaged 6.3 points and 3.8 rebounds for IHS.
The two Bobcats took a bit different routes to their scholarship offers from the Wildcats.
Gomez drew the attention of the Wildcats’ coaching staff during the Colorado Coaches of Girls Sports All-State basketball game in March. After the game, one of the coaches approached Gomez about playing at J&W.
“It was overwhelming,” Gomez said of the recruitment. “I thought ... my last year’s going to be my senior year in high school, but now I’m going to play again. I’m excited.”
Baker-Marquez’s path to the Wildcats wasn’t as simple.
Seibel talked to the post player and asked if she wanted to play at the next level. Knowing Gomez was taking a visit to the campus in Denver, he reached out to the J&W coaches, gave his pitch for Baker-Marquez and asked them to give her a tryout.
The Wildcats were excited for another recruit and asked Baker-Marquez to join Gomez on her visit.
“When they went up on April 30, I messaged both of them that night and they told me that they’d both got offers to play,” Seibel said.
“That just made my heart so happy; I was ecstatic about it. ... This is the greatest thing that could happen to these young ladies – having the opportunity to go to the same school and continue playing basketball.”
The offer was a bit of a shock for Baker-Marquez.
“Well, I’m like still freaking out about it,” she said. “I don’t believe it because when I was younger, I never thought I’d go further (in basketball) than high school. Just getting the opportunity to do this is really great. First thing when I heard (Johnson & Wales was interested), I was like, ‘I’m going there. I’m dropping my other plans to go to Arizona; I’m going there. I’m going to do it.’”
Gomez is expected to see playing time as a true freshman, while Baker-Marquez’ status is up in the air entering her freshman season.
Both plan to major in psychology and believe having each other at J&W will help the transition to the college classroom and basketball court.
“It’s awesome,” Gomez said. “We’ve known each other for a really long time now, and coming up from Ignacio to Denver, playing basketball is a big jump for a small town.”
The scholarship offer from J&W also helped erase the pain felt from a long and injury-plagued high school career for Baker-Marquez, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee as a freshman, then again in the season opener of her junior season.
“I never thought I would make it this far,” Baker-Marquez said.
“Coming from those injuries. ... My mind’s just blown. I really worked hard to get where I’m at. And I just have to work even harder to stay and get better. I feel like the injuries helped me a lot because I don’t think I would have had that drive I do now if they’d never happened.”