One by one, Mark Kellogg pieced together the foundation for the Fort Lewis College women's basketball program with his
first full recruiting effort in 2006.
He signed Allison Rosel.
He signed Audrey George.
He signed Katie Mackey.
He signed Laura Haugen.
He signed Lauren McCulloch.
"This freshman class will be the future of the Skyhawk basketball program," the second-year coach said at the time.
Four years later, Kellogg looks like a prophet.
"I'd be lying if I said I knew they would be this good," Kellogg said Wednesday night, two days before his fifth-ranked
women's basketball team christens its home season with the first of two games in the Skyhawk Classic at Whalen
"When I got here, I knew I had to build it with freshmen. I knew I had to get really good freshmen."
Kellogg was hired in 2005 sans head-coaching experience. He wet his feet with a 16-13 (12-7) campaign in his first
season, then introduced Haugen and Mackey to his starting lineup in 2006 with a 14-13 (11-8) result.
George was added to the starting lineup in 2007 for a 26-4 (18-1) effort, and Rosel joined the starters last season for
Kellogg is 84-33 overall and 59-32 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.
The last two seasons, his magical band of '06 recruits has led the Skyhawks to a 54-7 overall record, a 36-2 mark
inside the conference and back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Division II Women's Basketball Championships.
"They're all so unique," Kellogg said. "We've built this program around them. They've all got skills, great basketball
IQs. It just fits."
Last season, playing with a hobbled Haugen, the Skyhawks bowed out of the national tournament with a close Sweet 16
loss to Minnesota State-Mankato in Mankato, Minn. - a team that went on to crown itself national champion.
The game left a "what if?" albatross around the Skyhawks' necks.
"Playing in Mankato, in that environment, in that setting, it allowed us a pretty close look at what it takes to win a
national championship," Kellogg said.
"Without a doubt, we are one of the top teams in the country ... we've got a lot of talent, a lot of depth, we can score
a lot of different ways, we can defend a lot of
different ways. We've played in some big games. We've got some good things going for us."
FLC, off to a 4-0 start this season, unveils its '09 model at 5:30 p.m. today against Dixie State at Whalen Gym, then
again at 5:30 p.m. Saturday against Midwestern State, a part of the women's Skyhawk Classic.
The FLC men's basketball team will host games tonight and Saturday night, as well.
"I expect it to be a good weekend of basketball," Kellogg said.
Among the plotlines to follow for an otherwise perfectly polished team is the Skyhawks' play at point guard.
Erin Kerr, the best 3-point shooter in the program's history, is the only player lost to graduation from last year's
Abby Jackson, Kerr's backup, shifts to starter, while reverse transfer Katie Mihalco and freshmen Andrea Owens and Alex
Easterbrook will compete for backup minutes.
"Mihalco will get the first crack," Kellogg said of the Regis Jesuit High School alumna and transfer from Division I
University of San Francisco. "Point guard isn't necessarily her true position, but she's got a lot of experience on her
Owens and Easterbrook will see valuable minutes, too.
"I love our two (freshmen) point guards," Kellogg said. "Once they learn our system, our program, they're going to be
Last year's freshmen - Dana Schreibvogel, Mary Rose Paiz and Jenna Santistevan - already have parlayed last year's
minutes into progress. Schreibvogel twice has led the Skyhawks in scoring this season, and Paiz and Santistevan have
turned minutes into production, as well.
"Kids with serious minutes as freshmen, the next year they will take such a big jump," Kellogg said.
The rest is elementary.
Rosel is an accurate double-double workhorse in the paint.
Haugen is an athletic score-from-anywhere wing.
Mackey is lightning in a bottle.
George is a defensive specialist capable of big games offensively.
McCulloch is a 3-point specialist and sixth-woman du jour.
"I love our team," Kellogg said. "We've gotta keep getting better, though.
"We couldn't be more happy to finally be playing at home, and this gym has been pretty good to us, too."