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Lander native to play basketball in Alaska

Apr 17, 2012 - By Bruce Tippets, Sports Editor

Ruth O'Neal isn't finished playing college basketball.

The Sheridan College sophomore signed a national letter of intent to play basketball next season at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

O'Neal was an all-state basketball player at Lander Valley High School.

"I love the town, the program, and it's a really great school," O'Neal said.

O'Neal always had the desire to play at Division II or Division I level.

"I think that it will be pretty neat to play Division II basketball," O'Neal said. "I think that it will be a different experience. I had some motivation to play Division II basketball. I was just focused in on Sheridan College for two years. "

The 5-foot-9-inch forward visited the school a couple of weeks ago before she made her final decision.

"It was warming up when I was there," O'Neal said. "It was about 30 degrees."

O'Neal will be playing for coach Cody Burgess on her next stop on the basketball level.

Burgess played basketball for the University of Alaska Fairbanks from 2002 to 2005.

Burgess will be entering her third season as the head coach for her alma mater.

"The coach is great and is willing to help," O'Neal said. "it seems like the team they have now is pretty good. From what I know, coach Burgess is really starting to get the program going.

In the classroom, O'Neal will major in justice. She is thinking about going into law enforcement.

Sheridan experience

"I think that I played pretty well at Sheridan, except for the little injury that I had," O'Neal said.

O'Neal sprained her medial collateral ligament during a game at Central Wyoming College in mid-February. The injury made her miss at least six games.

"It was very tough to sit out," O'Neal said. "Our team in general had a lot of injuries. We got through it and did our best."

O'Neal came back in time to play at the Region IX tournament at Casper College. O'Neal played in 26 games and finished, having an average of 9.0 points per game. Sheridan College finished the season with a 25-7 mark. The Rustlers eliminated Sheridan College from postseason play in the quarterfinals of the do-or-die tournament. One of O'Neal's teammates at Sheridan College was Fallon Lewis.

Lewis will be playing next season at the University of Wyoming under the direction of coach Joe Legerski.

"Fallon is a really good player," O'Neal said. "It was an honor to play with her for two years, including the all-star games. We had a team that was like family. We bounded really good together."

Fairbanks

O'Neal will be a part of a rebuilding process at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Fairbanks finished the 2011-12 season with a 6-22 overall record and was 2-16 in conference play.

O'Neal's new school plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Other teams in the league are University of Alaska Anchorage, Central Washington, Montana-State Billings, Northwest Nazarne University, Saint Martin's University, Seattle Pacific University, Simon Fraser University, Western Oregon University and Western Washington University.

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