Central Kitsap star heads East

The Washington to Connecticut connection continued Thursday as Central Kitsap High forward Brice Brooks signed a letter of intent to play at Sacred Heart University.

The 6-foot-6 Brooks, who averaged 18.3 points and 8.3 rebounds per game last season while leading CK to a fifth-place finish at state, followed 2003 Kentridge High graduate Joey Henley to the Division 1-A school in Fairfield, Conn.

“I’m pretty excited,” Brooks said Thursday. “I knew I was going to sign after the recruiting trip. The coaches are really excited for me to come out there.”

Brooks, who said he has a 2.6 grade-point average and a qualifying SAT score, first told the Central Kitsap Reporter that he favored the Sacred Heart Pioneers over Boise State, the University of California-Santa Barbara, Central Washington and Eastern Washington on Feb. 28. He only visited Sacred Heart, though.

“It’s a nice campus,” Brooks said. “I like it because it’s not too big and not too small. There’s not a lot of people, but there’s more people than what they made it seem.”

But, like Henley, Brooks said the selling point for Sacred Heart was assistant coach Keith Bike, son of the head coach.

“That’s the main reason,” he said. “Coach (Keith) Bike makes you feel really wanted. He makes you feel like (Sacred Heart) is a place to be.”

Dave Bike, who was an assistant coach at Seattle University from 1972-76, still has ties in the area. His nephew, Chris O’Connor, is the basketball coach at Sammamish High in Bellevue.

“I needed a kid to work around the basket and Chris told us about Joey Henley. Keith confirmed what Chris had told him. (Henley) was almost freshman of the year (here).”

Henley, who was named the High School Male Athlete of the Year by The Seattle Times and the King County Journal last year, averaged 8.7 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, as the Pioneers finished with a 12-15 record and 8-10 in the Northeast Conference.

After Henley’s impressive performance, Bike said he was interested in recruiting more players out of Washington.

“(We sent out Keith) and he got a really good read on Brice,” Bike said. “He’s got a good frame and that’s important. He’s more advanced than most kids and he acts and looks like a player. We’re excited.”

After receiving a positive report, Bike flew out to watch Brooks at last month’s state tournament.

“We sent out another assistant to cross-check him and he liked what he saw,” Bike said. “I came to the state tournament and told his coach, Tim Fryer, that we weren’t here to evaluate, we’re already sold.”

With the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Henley firmly entrenched at power forward and 6-foot-10 Kibwe Trim also returning for the Pioneers, Brooks expects to move to small forward next season.

“They said there’s a chance I could start next season,” said Brooks, adding that he’s happy about the position change. “I’m not going to sit back. I want to work on my first step and defense. I want to make an impact when I get there.”

Bike said Brooks will have an opportunity to play immediately.

“Even with Joey I was a little slow to bring him around,” he said. “I want to be open-minded. If the kid is ready to go in the first game, then I’m going to play him. If he plays well, he has an opportunity to participate fully. We’re not a team coming off 25 wins, so he’s got a chance to play.”

Brooks likely will revisit the Northwest on Dec. 22.

“It’s not a signed deal yet,” said Bike, referring to a potential game against the University of Washington in Seattle.

Brooks followed other local posts — South Kitsap High’s Jacob Beitinger (Eastern Washington) and Bremerton High’s Marvin Williams (North Carolina) — in making a college choice.

The talent produced on the West Sound seems to have intrigued Bike. The coach indicated he has “high interest” in a 2005 recruit from the area. NCAA rules forbid coaches from discussing unsigned high school prospects and Bike refused to name the player he was interested in, but candidates could include CK’s Neil Fryer or a trio of King’s West players — 6-foot-8 center Eric Bright, 5-foot-10 guard Jesse Reeves or 6-foot-4 forward Adam Shildmyer.

Other local signings — Jeff Shaw, a baseball, basketball and football star at Olympic High, signed with Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. “He’s going there primarily for baseball,” said Olympic athletic director Robert Polk, who also was Shaw’s basketball coach. “He’s talking about walking on the basketball team. He probably would play football too, but they don’t have a program.”

A pair of Olympic softball players — pitcher Lauren Haas and shortstop Hope Hilman — also signed letters of intent. Haas signed with Southern Illinois, where she will play infield, over an offer from Georgia. Hilman is headed to Fairleigh Dickson University in Montclair, N.J. She also had an offer from North Dakota State. “It just had what I wanted academically and a good softball program,” Hilman said. “I really liked the city.”

CK shortstop Kristi Baumgartner said Thursday that she will attend Olympic College and play softball there next season.

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