Thursday, April 20, 2017
Steamboat Springs DaKota Bruner stood in the nearly empty gymnasium where she’d accomplished so much, and it felt like a goodbye.
Of course, it wasn’t yet “goodbye” for the Soroco High School senior. More awaits this spring. On the sports side, there are still track meets to be run and, if all goes well, a trip to the state track meet next month. She’s not even done with the gym, where graduation will take place next month.
Still, she indulged in looking backward, reminiscing about her high school basketball career, and at the same time, she looked ahead.
That’s what brought her to the gym Thursday in the first place, to sign to play basketball with Sterling College in Kansas.
Starting next fall, she’ll be a Warrior, and her Soroco teammates, her parents, her friends and her new coach at Sterling were on hand Thursday for the ceremony.
“When I visited, it felt like home,” she said. “The girls were really down-to-earth, a lot like me. It was hard to pick, but also, the relationship I got with coach and the girls in just that two-day time was crazy.”
Sterling just felt right, Bruner said. She toured one other campus, for a larger school in Arkansas, and that went fine, she said, but only fine.
“There, I was like, ‘I’m ready to get out of here.’ Sterling, I didn’t want to leave,” Bruner said, recounting her visits, which took place last spring.”
She plans on majoring in athletic training and can get a master's degree at Sterling in five years.
“I just told her I just wanted her to be happy where she was going, academically,” said David Bruner, her father and coach of the high school team. “I knew she could play wherever she went. She made the right choice, academically, I know that.”
Sterling plays in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The Warriors went 19-11 in the most recent season and 13-9 in their conference.
“We really do our homework on who we recruit,” Sterling coach K.C. Bassett said. “We look for good students, people who are coachable and who are good teammates. DaKota definitely fits, and you add the basketball skill on top of that. She’s just a perfect fit for Sterling College.”
Bruner leaves behind a strong legacy as a player in the Rams’ program.
She started all four years and averaged double digits scoring each season, 13 points per game for 84 games in her career, a total of 1,089 points.
She sank 158 3-point shots in that time and helped her team to four of the best seasons in program history.
The team made the regional finals three consecutive years, 2014 through 2016, and won back-to-back league championships in 2015 and 2016. The team had a 73-20 record in her four years.
She considered that all Thursday, standing in the gym where so much of it happened. It wasn’t quite time to say goodbye, but she was preparing herself.
“I remember the journey of it all,” she said. “Each year, there was always a different journey. It didn’t end like we wanted every year, but the overnight stays, the practices we had, that’s what I’m going to remember the most, is the memories and journeys I had through basketball.”