Three Freshman, Three Transfers Round Out Soderquist's Class of 2016
SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. -- Head women's basketball coach Jeff Soderquist announced this afternoon (May 25) that six standout student-athletes have signed letters of intent to continue their academic and athletic careers at John Brown University.
Originating from three different states and two countries, this year's recruiting class features newcomers KJ Roh (Lincoln, Neb. / Lincoln East), Ally Teague (Beryville, Ark. / Beryville) and Sara Williams (McKinney, Texas / Homeschool), which join transfers Cara Barrett (Harrison, Ark. / North Arkansas College), Rosa Orpo (Espoo, Finland / Carl Albert State) and Luize Skrastina (Riga, Latvia / Cloud County Community).
The Golden Eagles kicked off the 2015-16 campaign with a 9-3 record, including a win over then-No. 10 Wayland Baptist (Texas) and two close loses to then-No. 4 Bethel (Tenn.) and then-No. 15 Benedictine (Kan.). However, a difficult stretch of seven games that featured six losses evened out JBU's record until an 8-5 mark down the stretch helped the Golden Eagles clinch the fourth seed in the Sooner Athletic Conference tournament. After upsetting fifth-seeded and host Southwestern A.G. (Texas), John Brown fell to eventual champion Wayland Baptist in the semifinals, ending the season 18-14 (10-8 SAC).
Returning to the 2016-17 roster are All-SAC honorees Kodi Powell and Baily Cameron. Cameron also claimed SAC Freshman of the Year accolades in an outstanding first season of play.
"We had a very outstanding class that came in last year, and now I think we have followed it up with another really, really good class," said head coach Jeff Soderquist. "I am very excited about next season and getting all these parts working together."
Cara Barrett joins the Golden Eagles after a pair of successful seasons at NorthArk, where the 5-foot-9 shooting guard helped the Pioneers to a pair of regional championships and a quarterfinals appearance at the 2016 NJCAA Division II National Championships in Overland Park, Kan. Under head coach Stacie Klott, the two-time All-Region honoree averaged 14.3 points per game in the tournament en route to claiming an All-America third team nomination. As a sophomore, Barrett played in 32 games and averaged 13.4 points per game while hitting 45.9 percent (141-of-307) of her attempts from the field.
Prior to her junior college experience, the Harrison, Ark. native played for three seasons under head coach Doug Young at Harrison High School. There, as a Goblin, Barrett averaged 14.8 points per game over her final two years, and grabbed the team MVP both seasons. Named All-5A West as a junior and senior, she also collected All-State and All-Tournament honors in her final campaign.
Barrett was also a four-year standout for the Goblin volleyball team, landing All-Conference and All-State honors
"Cara was a teammate of Kodee Powell two years ago at NorthArk, which will be great to see them reunited," added Soderquist. She is a great athlete will play out on the perimeter for us after having an outstanding season on a very good NorthArk team."
Rosa Orpo will complete a nearly 5,000 mile journey from her native Espoo, Finland to join the Golden Eagles. The 5-foot-10 forward is no stranger to the region, however, after suiting up for head coach Jeff Tadtman at Carl Albert State (Okla.) for a pair of seasons. There, Orpo helped the Vikings finish third in their conference as a sophomore, scoring 7 points per game and shooting 46.4 percent from the floor.
Orpo began her American stint at Arkoma High School (Okla.), playing three seasons for head coach Connie Ray. In her senior season, Orpo helped the Mustangs to an Area championship an a berth into the OSSAA 1A state championships and earned the conference's Best Defensive Player. In a loss, Orpo netted 25 points in a 79-71 loss to No. 4 Frontier High School.
"Rosa is one of those players that could play multiple positions for us," Soderquist commented. "She has good length and athleticism and comes from a great program at Carl Albert."
KJ Roh just completed a three-year career at Lincoln East High School (Neb.) under head coach Dennis Prichard. As a member of the Spartans, Roh capped off her high school career by leading East to an NSAA Class A state title. Netting a team-best 13 points in the championship game, Roh hit 3-of-4 from behind the arc, helping the eighth-seeded Spartans to a shocking title, its first since 2004. The 6-foot guard/forward hails from Lincoln, Neb. Roh's prestigious high school career featured a three-year nomination to the All-Conference Academic team, four years on the Scholar-Athlete list, only to be topped off with an All-State honorable mention nod after East's Cinderella run to the title.
"KJ played for one of the best high school teams in Nebraska," Soderquist admitted. "She can play multiple positions for us and we really like her height and length."
Similar to Rosa Orpo, Luize Skrastina will transfer in from a junior college and originates from over 5,000 miles away in Riga, Latvia. The 6-foot forward kicked off her high school career at the Riga State Grammar School No. 2 for three years under head coach Eva Vasilevska. There, she helped lead her team to a third-place finish in the Vef Riga Superliga championships by averaging 18.3 points and 9.4 rebounds per game. Skrastina capped off her career with an All-Star nomination, which goes to the five best players in the tournament.
Skrastina then moved to the states and suited up for Cloud County C.C. (Kan.) for head coach Brett Erkenbrack. In her freshman season, Skrastina averaged 11.9 points and 7.3 boards, including a season-best 28-point, 14-rebound game against Seward C.C. She was also named to the Kansas Jayhawk West Conference honorable mention list in her freshman season.
"We were looking hard for an inside player that would fit into our system, and she is definitely the one," admitted Soderquist. "She is very athletic and strong, can score inside and is a very good three-point shooter; she played at one of the best junior colleges out there."
The Berryville, Ark. native Ally Teague joins JBU after a decorated career as a member of the Bobcats. Under head coach Daniel Cornelison, Teague helped Beryville to the AAA 4A state semifinals in her season season, en route to setting a program record in steals. The 6-foot forward accumulated three All-Conference and a pair of All-District honors before earning 4A All-State and All-Star accolades as a senior.
"Ally is another inside player that can really fit our program," Soderquist added. "She is very athletic and can score around the basket and beyond the arc."
Finally, Sara Williams will journey from McKinney, Texas to Siloam Springs after a stint with one of the best homeschool teams in the nation. The 5-foot-7 guard lead the Texas Home Educators' Sports Association team (THESA) to three consecutive National Christian HomeSchool Championships (NCHC) as a sophomore, junior and senior. During her four-year career under head coach Jason Higginbotham, Williams averaged 15.4 points per game, a 39.5 percent mark from the floor and an 84 percent average from the free throw line.
Williams garnered extensive accolades at THESA, including a spot on the NCHC All-Tournament team all four seasons. Beyond earning National Most Valuable Player as as sophomore, Williams collected the trifecta of awards in her senior campaign, bringing home the Regional Point Guard of the Year and National Senior Player of the Year honors while landing on the National All-Senior team to cap of her high school career.
"Sara played on one of the best homeschool and AAU teams out there," noted Soderquist. "Her homeschool team has produced other JBU players like Anna Parish, Melody Williams and Lauren Pelegreen. Sara is a very talented point guard that really sees the floor well and gets the ball to the right people at the right time."
The Golden Eagles will open the 2016-17 campaign against Benedictine (Kan.) on Nov. 1 at Bill George Arena. The tip with the Ravens, who made an appearance in the NAIA National Championships semifinals last season, is slated for 6 p.m.