JACKSON, TENN. - After years and years of playing AAU basketball as a youngster, progressing to middle school ball, then on to prep hoops and finally advancing to the collegiate level, Sunnyside's Carly Syverson is getting her day in the sun.
The national spotlight will be on the 2001 Sunnyside High School grad next week, when she and her fellow Carroll College women's basketball teammates open play at the NAIA Division I national tournament.
The former Sunnyside Lady Grizzly hoop star, the daughter of Jack and Terri Syverson, was recruited to play for Carroll College in Helena, Mont. last August. With two years of community college ball under her belt, Syverson stepped right into the starting point guard's spot on the Helena team.
To say the college junior has had a successful season is a major understatement. Syverson, who played in all of the team's 34 games this season, was the sparkplug that helped Carroll College advance to the No. 16 slot in the final NAIA Division I national rankings that were just released this week.
The transition from the community college basketball courts to NAIA Division I ball has gone smoothly for Syverson. She finished the 2004-05 regular season with a scoring average of just over 9.25 points a game. Syverson has been impressive from behind the 3-point arc, hitting 42 percent of her long ball attempts this season. She's also averaged 4.38 assists per game and was an 80 percent free throw shooter for Carroll College this year.
An intricate cog on the Carroll women's hoop squad, Syverson and her talented teammates won both the Frontier League title and the conference tournament championship. It is the first time in Carroll College history that the women's basketball team has won both the league and conference tourney titles.
As the conference tourney champs this year, Carroll earned an automatic berth into the NAIA Division I national tournament. All of the tourney games will be played at Oman Arena in Jackson, Tenn., which has been the host of the national tourney for more than 10 years.
Syverson and her teammates will open play next Wednesday against the University of Mobile. The Alabama team brings a 25-8 record into the national tourney. Syverson's team finished the regular season with an overall mark of 28-6.
Should the Carroll women's team win its national tournament opener next Wednesday, it would advance to play on Friday, March 18. Most likely, Carroll's second round opponent would be the nation's No. 2 ranked NAIA Division I school, Vanguard Univesity of California, which brings a 30-3 record into the tourney and is the defending Golden State League champions.
In addition to Carroll College representing the Frontier League at the national tourney, two other schools in that conference-Lewis-Clark State College and the University of Montana-Western-were chosen as at-large teams to play for the national title.
Syverson and her teammates defeated the University of Montana-Western by a 73-72 score in the Frontier League conference tournament championship game this past week.
Syverson left Sunnyside to play basketball for Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake. She red-shirted her sophomore year because of illness, then transferred to Spokane Falls Community College, where she earned a starting position on the women's hoop team. From there she was recruited to play for Carroll College. At the Montana university she is majoring in business.
But right now, the business at hand for Syverson is helping to propel her team towards a national championship. The first step is getting past the University of Mobile, Alabama next Wednesday. Game time is 8:15 a.m. (PST).