Rifle senior forward Samantha Hinkle joined the recruiting game late, but there was plenty of interest in the 5-foot-11-inch forward, who averaged 10.8 points and 5.8 rebounds per game for the 22-4 Rifle girls basketball team during the 2016-17 season.
That heavy interest in Hinkle’s talents ended with her committing to play basketball at McCook Community College, a junior college powerhouse in McCook, Nebraska, where she’ll continue to develop her game under the watchful eye of Indians second-year head coach Kellen Fernetti.
“I chose McCook because it’s a community-based college, and it’s in a smaller place,” said Hinkle, a three-time 4A Western Slope League First Team All-Conference performer. “I feel like it’s more where I feel at home. When I went there, everyone was really nice, and it’s all about family. Plus I really liked how their values matched up with mine, as well. The coach at McCook kind of has the same values as our program at Rifle, so that really helped. And McCook reminds me of Rifle in some ways, which is nice because I can go somewhere else that’s not too far away but definitely different.”
By committing to the Indians, Hinkle will spend the first two years of her eligibility at the JUCO school in Nebraska working on her game in hopes of getting a crack at a Division I or II program once her time is up with the Indians. In fact, Hinkle looks to become the second Bear under Kristy Wallner’s direction to make an impact at McCook before then moving on to a Division I or II program.
Former Rifle standout Chante Church, a junior guard at Regis University, recently attended McCook and put up some monster numbers before moving on to the Rangers. Seeing Church have success at McCook before moving on to bigger and better things was part of the reason Hinkle chose to sign on with the Indians.
“She’s had a lot of success,” Hinkle said. “It was really cool to see someone come from Rifle go to a community college and move on to a bigger school to have a good career so far.”
Church, who played on a team with Hinkle a few years ago, actually played a role in getting the senior center to head to McCook, where she’ll get a chance to play right away and make an impact.
“She’s actually one of the people who helped me get into McCook,” Hinkle said. “She talked to the coach for me and told them all about me. She definitely had a big impact on me heading to McCook. Doing that for me was really nice and really sweet of her.”
As a future member of McCook, Hinkle will bring plenty of size and skill to the paint for the Indians. By signing with the program on March 10, Hinkle became the first member of the 2017 signing class, so she was clearly one of the top targets and biggest adds for the Indians during the signing period.
Based on her play at Rifle over the last four years, Hinkle is more than equipped for success at the college level. Adding in the fact that Wallner played such a huge role in preparing her for the next level, Hinkle should be well-prepared for anything that the JUCO level throws at her these next two years.
“I think her coaching technique has definitely prepared me for the next level because our practices have always been about intensity,” Hinkle said. “My teammates have played a big role, too, by pushing me every day. But coach Wallner has always pushed me and believed in me. Right before our last game against Windsor, coach Wallner was talking to me and told me to go out there and play my best because there’s a reason McCook wants me. Just her belief in me and pushing me has definitely prepared me for the bigger stage.”
Hinkle will officially head to McCook in August for the start of school, where she’ll began her studies in pursuit of being a history teacher following the end of her basketball career.
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