The Western Nebraska Community College women's basketball team had plenty of success during the past season and now have sent all three sophomores on to the Division I level after Bree Paulson inked Tuesday with St. Bonaventure University in St. Bonaventure, New York.
Paulson joins the other two sophomores who are also going the Division I route. Sladjana Rakovic was the first to ink, signing with the University of Wyoming in November. Zeynep Canbaz inked with Middle Tennessee State in May. Paulson said it is neat that all three sophomores are going to Division I schools and it says a lot about WNCC basketball.
"I think it says a lot about our program at Western Nebraska that all the sophomores went Division 1," she said. "Also it says a lot of good things about Coach Chad Gibney and how dedicated he is to his players."
The Cougar women finished last season at 28-5 and captured their 13th Region IX title with a come-from-behind win over Eastern Wyoming College in the championship game. The Cougars ended their season with a hard-fought loss to Jones County at the NJCAA national tournament in Lubbock, Texas.
"My last year at WNCC was definitely one for the books," Paulson said. "I will always remember Western Nebraska and be proud to wear the gear still representing the Cougars. We had such a successful season and I am very grateful for that because without my team, I wouldn't be where I am today."
Paulson averaged 10.8 points a game last season and was most recently honored with a bigger honor, being named a third team NJCAA Academic All-American.
"I have worked extremely hard both on and off the court to achieve this," the Broomfield, Colorado, native said. "I definitely am most proud of how hard I've worked because it is a huge accomplishment but I can't wait to continue working hard over in NY and hopefully find even more successes."
Paulson said she had a tough time choosing a school, but in the end she is excited to be going to a Division I school that is rich in academics. St. Bonaventure is located in the western side of New York just along the Pennsylvania border.
"I chose St. Bonaventure for a couple of different reasons," she said. "One being that the academics are super credible there which will definitely help me get into med school easier. Also the basketball program and coaches there are super motivated and the program is on the rise, so it's a great time to join the journey."
At. Bonaventure finished last season with a 9-20 record and play in the Atlantic 10 conference. The Bonnies earned a berth in the NCAA tournament in 2016 and were a NCAA Sweet 16 team in 2012. They have made 27 NCAA tournament appearances since 2006-07. Academically, they were ranked 7th in the nation in 2015-16 with a 3.57 GPA.
Paulson said her dream has been to play Division I basketball.
"Playing D1 basketball has always been my dream, so it feels amazing finally being able to say I have accomplished what I've always wanted to do since I've picked up a basketball," she said. "I am very excited to be going there to play basketball but also a little nervous. I've never been out there let alone have lived there so it will be new but new is good."
Paulson said she will represent WNCC's blue and gold on the east coast with pride.
"I just want to thank everyone at Western Nebraska and in the Scottsbluff area for making these past two years ones to remember," she said. "I definitely will miss Cougar Palace but I am proud to represent all the way in the east coast."