Ciani adjusts to collegiate ball
COLBY, Kan. – The landscape may have changed, but Sam Ciani’s play on the basketball court remains the same.The former Glenwood Springs player, who was vital to the Demons’ Final Four playoff run last season, is now suiting up for Colby Community College in Kansas and doing quite well in her freshman campaign.One of 11 freshmen on the squad, Ciani was spotted by Trojan head coach Tom Stephens at the all-state basketball game last summer in Greeley. Her relentless play and athleticism caught his eye.”I thought she was a real physical, hard-nosed player,” Stephens said.
Although Ciani was a post for Glenwood, at 5-foot-11 Stephens had plans of moving her out of the paint for college play.”Sam is a tough kid. She is a little undersized for college, so we are going to move her to the perimeter,” Stephens said. “Instead of playing a four and five, she’ll be a three and four.”That was the plan until the Trojans’ 6-foot-2 center, Aleksandra Miletiz of Serbia, tore her anterior cruciate ligament. Now Ciani is back in the key.”I am the biggest girl now and the strongest, so I am playing center,” Ciani said.Ciani, who comes off the bench in most games, has played in all Colby’s 13 games, totaling 42 points, 31 rebounds, five steals, four assists and two blocks. She is averaging 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.Ciani is used to being out-sized on rosters, but just like her days as a Demon, she’s never out-played. In fact, she says the taller the opponent the better.”I am used to taller girls. Height doesn’t really bother me,” Ciani said. “I only get nervous when there is a 6-1 girl and really athletic. A lot of times, if they are taller, they are not as athletic.”
Ciani admits that playing hoops in college is no joke. It is a serious commitment that requires practicing six days a week for three to four hours each session. She spends lots of time in vans getting to tournaments from Rangely to Oklahoma to Texas.”It is intense. You have the things that you expect, but it is different and it is a lot harder,” she said. “You have to commit a lot of time.”Colby Community College is a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association and plays in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference. Thirteen games into the season, the Trojans are 5-8, but have won five of their last eight after starting the year 0-4. Stephens admitted the going has been tough with so many newcomers, but things are improving. Having lived in Colby – a town 53 miles from the Kansas-Colorado border which sits a few miles north of Interstate 70 and boasts a population of 5,450 – for almost five months now, Ciani is amazed at how tiny it is. It’s made her miss Glenwood Springs.”(Glenwood Springs) is such a great place because it has a small-town feel, but it is not a small town – not at all,” Ciani said. “People there are open. Here, it is so conservative and uptight and it has been a huge learning experience.”A few times, Ciani has escaped the confines of Colby and gone to Denver, a four-hour drive away, or to Boulder to see friends. When she’s not on the court on in the classroom, she tries to have some fun in Colby.”We try to entertain ourselves in the dorms or go to Wal-Mart,” Ciani said. “That’s all we have is a Super Wal-Mart.”After a great prep career capped by a superb senior season, when Ciani averaged 14.2 points per game, the ex-Demon wanted to test the waters of collegiate ball. She’s unsure how long she’ll play, if she’ll try to move up to a Division II school, or if she’ll give up playing competitively.
No matter where the future takes her, she’s happy to have made the decision to be a Trojan.”I knew that if I didn’t come out and play, I would always question if I was good enough,” Ciani said.
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As a new transplant to the area, each week I will feature a trail within the Garfield County limits. For this inaugural week, I’m highlighting Glenwood Springs’ own Atkinson Canal Trail.