The road back to the NWAACC Tournament may be going through Alaska for Peninsula College head coach Alison Crumb.
Crumb is working hard to build a winner and she’s off to a very good start with a handful of early commitments from some outstanding athletes — most of them from the Frontier State.
One of those players is Jasmine Yarde, who was called “one of the most decorated basketball players to come out of West Valley” by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Yarde helped the West Valley girls to a 22-8 record, a Mid-Alaska Conference title and a fourth-place finish at the Class 4A State Tournament. Yarde signed her National Letter of Intent to play for Peninsula earlier this spring.
“Jasmine was someone I knew I wanted last year at this time and had kept an eye on her when she recovered from her surgery,” Crumb said. “She is a true competitor and works very hard at what she does. The first thing I did this recruiting season was call Jasmine and it worked out for us. I think she will be a great asset to our program.”
And Yarde seemed happy it worked out as well.
“I’m excited and I’m happy, but mostly, I’m just really thankful for this opportunity,” Yarde said. She tore the anterior cruciate ligament in her knee the summer before her senior year and only played half of her final season. Despite the injury, Yarde averaged 15.7 points, 8.9 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.4 steals per game last season and led all players at the state tournament with 54 total points (18 per game) and 18 steals (6 per game).
Another big-time Alaska athlete to commit to play for the Pirates is Raquel Young from Kenai Central High School. The 5-foot 11-inch forward/post has earned All-Tournament honors at the Kenai River Classic, Cordova Tournament and Ketchikan Tournament. She won All-Region honors in her Northern Lights Conference and was named to the Alaska Senior All-Star team for 2011.
Young also was named Athlete of the Year at Kenai Central High School where she is an excellent student.
“We are looking forward to having Raquel as a great student athlete,” Crumb said. “She works hard on the boards and gets up and down the floor as a post player. She is aggressive and physical, and will go for any loose ball no matter where it is at on the floor. She will bring a competitive spirit to our program and we look forward to having her.”
Crumb also is excited about the prospect of having Jestine Ellis in a Pirate uniform next year. She is a 5-foot 7-inch forward/guard from 2A Skagway High School. She has earned All-State and All-Conference honors all four years of her high school career. In 2011, she was First Team All-State, she made the All-State Tournament Team, she was a part of a team that won consecutive state championships and was named the Class 2A Player of the Year. During her junior year, she put together a very rare quadruple double, which featured 10 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 11 steals.
“Jesse has racked up the awards and obviously shown she can be an all-purpose player,” Crumb said. “We look forward to her aggressiveness, her willingness to compete and her ability to get things done regardless of where she is put on the floor. She can pass, shoot, rebound, and above all she is an incredible defender.”
She also boasts a 3.9 grade-point average and ranks second in her graduating class.
Continuing with the Alaska theme, Crumb has signed Wasilla High guard Leisl Brown. Her sisters Jamie and Ayla both played for the Pirates and she is bringing the same competitive spirit and desire to win.
Brown helped the Warriors to the state tournament for the second straight year, but was injured in the first game and was not able to play the rest of the way. Before she was hurt, she contributed four steals, seven points and helped the Wasilla girls get past Bartlett on their way to a Class 4A State Championship.
“I’m really excited to have Leisl join our team,” Crumb said. “Her family has all played here, so there is a great deal of roots here at Peninsula. Her quickness and ability to defend is going to help keep our guard-play fast and tenacious.”
All the way from Haines, Alaska, is another forward, Abby Jones. Abby is a 5-foot 9-inch forward who can play anywhere on the court.
“We plan on utilizing Abby in every position,” Crumb said. “She can shoot, she can rebound and she is very aggressive. I see her getting a lot of loose ball buckets from offensive rebounds and running the floor. She works very hard at everything that she does and will be another great addition to Peninsula College.”
Jones is very active in youth group and has an excellent work ethic in the classroom.
A little closer to home, coach Crumb signed Jonica Durbin, a 6-foot 2-inch post from Klahowya in Silverdale, where she was a four-year letter winner and three-year starter. Durbin suffered an injury her senior year and played sparingly, but still averaged 9.7 rebounds, 8 points and 2 steals. Perhaps her most incredible statistic, Durbin also had more than 100 blocks between her junior and senior years.
“Jonica adds size to our quickness and that is very important,” Crumb said. “We’ve been playing really small the last couple years and are looking forward to being able to have someone in the paint to detract shots and discourage easy buckets. She will help our defense, our rebounding, and will also add a true post presence in our offense. She is a great girl and has already made several trips up to Peninsula to get up and down the floor with us this spring.”