Three Haines athletes made the starting line-ups of college basketball teams this year, and all three saw how quickly injuries can change a season.
Will Egolf, who grew up in Haines and graduated from Juneau-Douglas High School, finished his six-year career as a Bradley University Brave with a loss in the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament on March 26. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee twice and suffered a broken nose over the course of his college run in Peoria, Ill.
“The last 10 games of his career were probably his best,” said his father, Dan Egolf.
Haines High School graduates Kyle Fossman and Abby Jones also played college hoops. Fossman, a junior, tallied about 15 points per game for the University of Alaska Anchorage, made the All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference First Team and was an All-Academic honoree.
“I wasn’t really surprised at the All-Academic, but I wouldn’t say that I had expectations to be All-Conference,” Fossman said.
He broke his right hand late in the season and missed two games.
Jones, a sophomore, competed for Peninsula College in Port Angeles, Wash. She led her team in rebounding and mostly avoided injury, although it did hit several of her teammates, including the region’s co-MVP, Juneau-Douglas alum Taylor Larson, who suffered a partially torn ACL. Jones earned a 3.9 grade-point average and was named to the All-Academic team for the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges.
“I loved being able to play,” Jones said. “I got really lucky to have a great coach and team.”
The 6’9’’ Egolf is hoping to play professional basketball, possibly overseas. One of the 235-pounder’s next tasks is to hire an agent.
“It’s basically just networking and finding an agent you trust,” said Egolf, who graduated from Bradley with a major in Organizational Communication.
Egolf first tore his ACL five games into his sophomore year. He endured another tear while preparing for what was to be his senior year in 2011-12.
“Everyone made it clear that my value here was great and they wanted me here,” Egolf said of the decision to apply for a sixth year of college eligibility.
Egolf was set to have surgery on his right meniscus last week, a procedure that should be a “two or three-week thing” before he can get back to workouts, he said.
Despite the injuries, and a four-game suspension after being charged for possessing six painkiller Vicodin pills without a prescription, Egolf’s senior year was clearly his best on the court. He upped his scoring average to 10 points per game, became an outside shooting threat by making 37 three-pointers, and ranks as one of the top shot-blockers in school history.
“That was one of the things I learned from this – a resilience through adversity,” Egolf said. “I figured out what I had deep down.”
The son of Dan and Joanna Egolf posted impressive marks in Bradley’s season-ending CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, as the Braves snatched two wins before losing to the University of Northern Iowa, finishing with an 18-17 overall record. The Bradley website noted Egolf “saved his best for last, averaging 19.7 points on 69.7 percent field goal shooting and 6.3 rebounds” in the tournament.
Bradley is a member of the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC), historically regarded as “mid-major,” but this year the conference produced a Final Four team, Wichita State University, and an All-American in Doug McDermott of Creighton University. Bradley played another Final Four team, national runner-up University of Michigan, this season, and the Wolverines won by only eight points.
“The whole world’s really seeing what the MVC is like,” Egolf said.
He said the transition from high school to Division I college basketball had “a huge learning curve” because “D1 is no joke. It’s full of amazing players.”
The six-foot Fossman also is considering a professional basketball career, but still has one more year as a collegian to impress scouts. The son of Steve and Ann Fossman was the leading scorer for the 18-9 Seawolves and shot nearly 45 percent from behind the arc. He also led the team in minutes played and notched almost twice as many assists as turnovers.
His father, who coached him to two state championships at Haines High School, said Kyle worked on his mid-range game and ability to drive to the basket to be more dangerous on offense.
“It was obvious they would really key in on him this year,” Steve Fossman said of opposing defenses. “I thought he did a really nice job of opening up his game. If he was just an outside shooter, he would be shut down.”
Kyle said with his increased status on the team, he isn’t an Anchorage celebrity. Youths asked for his autograph at the Great Alaska Shootout, but they did when he was a freshman, too, he said. Fossman said he is a few weeks from full-contact drills following the injury to his hand at a February practice.
The Seawolves will look to build off a season that ended prematurely with a 79-78 loss to Central Washington in the quarterfinals of the conference tournament. Fossman played through the injury and contributed 11 points and seven assists in that game.
Fossman also has been named the inaugural Alaska Airlines Scholar Athlete as the school prepares to open a new arena, the Alaska Airlines Center, in fall 2014. He said the arena will be “a selling point” for new recruits. Fossman has a 3.5 GPA as an accounting major and plans to become a certified public accountant.
“I just go to school in the morning and stay there all day,” he said. “It forces me to do my homework.”
The 5’10’’ Jones is scheduled to graduate from Peninsula College this spring with an associate’s degree. In an interview last week, Jones said she is considering a transfer to a Division II or III school to keep playing basketball and earn a bachelor’s degree. Jones listed Pacific University and Western Oregon University as two options and said she’ll probably study engineering or medicine.
Like Egolf and Fossman, Jones was a high school All-State honoree. The daughter of Mark and Frankie Jones drew the attention of Peninsula coaches at the Alaska Exposure Basketball Camp as a Haines senior in 2011. The Peninsula Pirates’ roster featured several Alaska talents, such as Taylor Larson and Karli Brakes of Juneau-Douglas and Jesse Ellis of Skagway.
“We played really well together, and had a great season,” Jones said.
In an article posted on the Peninsula website, coach Alison Crumb called this year’s Peninsula squad “the best team I’ve ever coached.” The Pirates, slowed by injuries, had a 14-12 overall record.
Jones, a forward, played a big role in that success. Known as “Beast” in high school, Jones said she dropped 20 pounds as a college athlete.
“I bulked up a lot,” she said. “I am definitely one of the more muscular players on the team.”
Following high school graduation, her family moved to Washington, making it easier to see her play in person. Jones said in her best individual game at Peninsula, she tallied 24 points and 12 rebounds. She averaged 10.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the season.
Jones said college basketball is “much more demanding in terms of time,” with weightlifting responsibilities and two-a-day practices. The competition is faster and taller and the defense is ferocious, she said. “You don’t have anybody on a single team who isn’t good.”