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Sproul leads the way for Lady Trojans

This news story was published on March 14, 2016.
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NIACC sports information director

niacc_trojans_logoOVERLAND PARK, Kan. – NIACC women’s basketball coach Todd Ciochetto had never been a fan of short point guards.

However, the second-year Lady Trojan head coach has changed his tune a bit about diminutive point guards thanks to current NIACC point guard Sammie Sproul, who lists at 5-feet, 1 inches.

“I’ve always had something against 5-footers,” Ciochetto said. “We always like to play a bit bigger.

“When she was in high school (at Waterloo West), I didn’t recruit her because she was smaller and that was my mistake. We are happy we have her now.”

And Ciochetto has Waterloo West girls basketball coach Tony Pappas to thank for the sophomore transfer, who played her first season of college basketball at Marshalltown Community College.

When Sproul decided to look for another school for her sophomore season, she talked with Pappas, who mentioned NIACC and gave Ciochetto a call.

“I told Todd that she’s a great kid and you will love coaching her,” Pappas said. “I told him that she will do a great job for him and I highly recommended her.

“And the rest is history.”

And Spoul is looking to make more history this week at the NJCAA Division II national basketball tournament on the Johnson County CC campus.

Seventh-seed NIACC (22-10) faces 10th seed Lake Michigan at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the opening round of the national tournament.

Ciochetto, whose team has won 10 straight games and has not lost since Jan. 30, gives Sproul a lot of the credit.

“If we weren’t fortunate to get her, we wouldn’t be where we are right now,” Ciochetto said. “With our need for a point guard and her coming in late last summer, that was huge for us.”

Sproul, who will play next season at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, admitted that she wasn’t sure how the Lady Trojans would treat the transfer student.

“I fit in really well,” Sproul said. “I came to the program not knowing what was going to happen and if the girls would accept me.

“But they were very nice and accepting. I love the way I’ve been able to come to NIACC and play the way I am. The way Todd plays fits the way that I play.”

And that is moving the ball up the court quickly on offense and playing a pressure style of defense.

Sproul, who was a first-team all-NJCAA Region XI selection, has excelled in all phases of the game in her lone season as a Lady Trojan.

Sproul averages 11.8 points (3rd on the team) and 5.5 rebounds (2nd on the team) per game and leads the team with 117 assists and 107 steals.

She’s just the third player in NIACC women’s history to score at least 350 points (377) with 150 rebounds (175), 100 assists and 100 steals in a single season.

The other two to reach those marks in a single-season for the Lady Trojans are Marla Shuey (1974-75) and Casey Spree (1999-2000).

“It’s funny saying that a 5-footer can do a little bit of everything, including rebound,” Ciochetto said. “I think the fact that she’s small has helped her in her basketball career.

“It has put a chip on his shoulder.”

Pappas said he knew all about Sproul’s ability to pass, play defense and rebound, but the scoring and shooting ability has surprised the hall of fame coach.

“I never let her shoot,” Pappas said. “Then I hear she’s making 10 3s in a game (vs. Ellsworth where she scored 35 points on Jan. 16). “I must have held her back.”

Sproul said she has been pushed this season by Ciochetto.

“I’ve never had a coach be that hard on me,” she said. “It’s made me grow as a person.”

Ciochetto said Sproul has improved as a leader throughout the season, especially during the Lady Trojans’ late season run that was capped off by a NJCAA Region XI tournament title.

“We got better when she became a leader,” the coach said.

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