Niagara Gazette — SANBORN — Kristine Ripson came to Niagara County Community College to major in volleyball, but just might leave here with a basketball scholarship.
The former two-sport star at Lewiston-Porter High School was recruited to NCCC's nationally-ranked volleyball program, and capped her two-year career in the fall by earning All-America honors, the regional player of the year award, and Thunderwolves' records in career blocks and hitting percentage.
Then she began her basketball career, at the behest of new coach Nate Beutel.
"I figured I might as well," said Ripson, who helped coach the Lew-Port girls varsity team last winter. "I played all through high school. Not playing last year, it was weird. I was bored. My whole life I had been playing basketball and volleyball."
Out of junior college eligibility and lacking any scholarship offers at this point, Ripson may be finished with volleyball. But she is enrolled in NCCC's massage therapy for next year and committed to playing a second year of basketball. Beutel believes she'll keep playing after that.
"If Kristine is willing to put in an offseason of hard work — and I know she will because of her work ethic and her attitude — she is going to receive offers next year," said Beutel, who is currently field callings from four-year schools interested in sophomore Jessica Curry (Wilson).
"I definitely think she can play at the next level."
Starting slow after missing a full year and the first month of practice due to volleyball season, Ripson is still averaging 17.8 points, placing her in the top 25 nationally among Division III junior college players. She is also averaging 12.3 rebounds (15th in the country) and chipping in on defense with three steals and two blocks per game.
In conference play this semester, Ripson has been even better, averaging 22 points, 14 rebounds and shooting almost 80 percent from the free throw line.
"Being a volleyball All-American, her jumping ability is helpful to her because a lot of her points come on putbacks and quick post moves," Beutel said. "That's where she excels right now. She's also able to find range out to 15-to-18 feet with good success. But the biggest thing is she has gained confidence. She's really grown as a player."
When Curry missed several games last month due to injury, Ripson stepped up as the go-to player, pouring in more than 30 points a night.
"I knew my team was counting on me," Ripson said. "Jess is a huge part of our team and I had to make up for what we lost when she wasn't on the court."
"The thing I liked even more was how she banded the team together," Beutel said. "Even though she's not a captain, I would say at this point in time she's become a team leader. On the floor, she became the No. 1 option and she ran with it. Now we have a 1A and 1B with her and Curry, and that's a nice luxury to have."
The Thunderwolves (10-12) host Lorain CC on campus at 1 today.