Hannah Thurmon has earned an opportunity to exhale.
Over the past couple of weeks, Thurmon, a 2018 Dexter High School graduate who played basketball at Three Rivers College the past two seasons, watched her future plans begin to fall apart.
In November, Thurmon signed to play basketball at the University of California-Riverside, but a coaching change led to a series of events that made her reconsider to her college decision. Riverside finished 8-22 overall and 4-12 in the Big West Conference.
“The whole staff left,” Thurmon said. “I really connected with the (players), and a bunch of them are leaving. I felt in my heart this was the best decision for me.”
Since she contacted new Riverside coach Nicole Powell, who was hired March 30, and asked and received her release, her phone began ringing off the hook.
“I was so bombarded (with phone calls),” Thurmon said. “It seemed like almost every 30 minutes, someone was calling.”
She narrowed the field to two NCAA D-I schools, the Big Sky Conference’s University of Montana and the Atlantic Sun Conference’s University of North Alabama.
She committed to Montana — located in the western Montana community of Missoula whose population is 74,428 people — on Wednesday night and was awaiting paperwork to make it official later in the week.
“I really clicked with them,” Thurmon said. “I’ll be a perfect fit for the program. I liked how much they needed me and wanted me there.”
The Grizzlies lose seniors Taylor Goligoski, McKenzie Johnston and Emma Stockholm, who were three of the team’s top four scorers. Stockholm was the team’s top rebounder and Goligoski was its best 3-point shooter.
Those needs match up with Thurmon’s skill set.
Johnston and Stockholm started every game. Goligoski played in all 30.
Johnston was the team’s top scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game. Stockholm averaged 11.4 points.
Stockholm averaged 6.0 rebounds per game and Johnston was second with a 5.3 average.
Goligoski made a team-high 45 3-pointers, making 36.5% percent of her shots.
Joining a winning program was important to Thurmon.
“Riverside didn’t have a very good season. I think that worried me, with all the girls I grew to know leaving the area,” she said.
Montana went 17-13 last season, including 12-8 in the conference that was good enough for a tie for fourth place.
While Thurmon isn’t sure of what her role will be, she anticipates a shot at the wing position.
“I may be more of a shooter,” she said. “They have some 5s coming in.”
Thurmon, who was named second-team All-Region 16, led the Lady Raiders with 72 3-pointers, shot a team-best 40% from 3-point range, paced the squad with 35 blocks and was second with 208 rebounds, while averaging 9.3 points.
Leading a team in blocked shots and 3-point shooting is a rare feat.
“It was pretty cool,” Thurmon said of the accomplishment. “It shows teams I can play inside and outside. I can be a shot blocker and step out and shoot the 3.”
She started all 32 games last season at Three Rivers and scored in double figures in 16 of them, including a season-high 18 points in a 101-65 win over Crowder College.
The Lady Raiders finished 26-6 overall, 9-1 in the region and 8-1 in the conference. They shared the Missouri Community College Athletic Conference and Region 16 titles with Moberly Area.
Kyle Smith - Dexter Statesman