Nevada all-american chooses St. Mary

Sunday, February 4, 2007

By Joe Warren

Herald-Tribune

NEVADA, Mo. -- Cottey College sophomore and Nevada High School graduate Lacy Leonard has chosen the University of Saint Mary, in Leavenworth, Kan., to continue her education this fall.

An NJCAA Division II all-american basketball player for the Comets, Leonard will play for the Lady Spires and pursue a degree in elementary education.

Despite being recruited by NCAA Division II schools, Leonard said she chose the NAIA Division II Lady Spires because she liked the coach and took into account the educational opportunity that the smaller school had to offer.

"I really like Coach (Michael) Basler, and we've developed a good relationship during the recruiting process," Leonard said. "I like the direction he is taking the program and want to be a part of it."

Saint Mary has an enrollment of less than 1,000 students, and Leonard said she knew the smaller class sizes that await would only enhance her educational experience.

"If I went somewhere like Pitt State, they have so many students in education that it might not be as beneficial to me," Leonard said. "At Saint Mary, all of their classes are small and I should get more out of it."

Leonard had been contacted by numerous schools, including NCAA Division II programs Pittsburg State, Northwest Missouri, Southwest Baptist and Missouri Southern.

The 5-11 forward was a first-team NJCAA Division II all-american selection last season, after averaging 21.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game for the Comets.

Leonard played in an all-star game in Lubbock, Texas, last summer, and led her team in scoring.

Leonard was a key member of the Comets team that set school records for wins and highest finish in the region tournament (second) last season.

The 2005 Nevada graduate is averaging 16.9 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season, despite playing most of the year with damaged ligaments in her left foot.

Saint Mary is currently in last place in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference, with a 1-11 record. The Lady Spires are 4-18 overall.

Leonard said the bad record didn't scare her off because she thinks the program is poised to improve, and that she can be a part of it.

"I wanted somewhere where I could help the program and be a part of the building process," Leonard said.

She said the situation isn't that different from when she decided on Cottey coming out of high school.

"I wanted to be a part of the building process (at Cottey), and I had a good experience," Leonard said. "I hope to do that at St. Mary, too."

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