Things just keep looking brighter for Alpena Community College.
Its volleyball team recently signed two of the area's best players, Alpena's Taylor Genschaw and Onaway's Mariah Ehrke while the men's basketball team scooped up the Alpena News player of the year, Andy Marwede.
ACC's strong signing streak continued on Monday when the women's basketball team signed Alcona senior Karina Cole and Johannesburg-Lewiston senior Brittany Cherwinski.
News Photo by Eric Benac
Alcona senior Karina Cole (center) signs her letter of intent to play for the Alpena Community College women’s basketball team on Monday at Park Arena. She is flanked by father and former coach Brad Cole, left and ACC head coach Bobby Allen.
Alpena's Emma Strong was scheduled to sign the same day, but rescheduled due to illness. She will sign at a later date.
Cole and Cherwinski are a pretty big recruiting coup for the Lumberjacks and are the kind of highly accomplished players that could boost ACC's record for the next two years.
Cole averaged 24 points points during her varsity career and earned a school record 1,600 career points including 556 this season. Cole also holds Alcona's single-game point record (42).
"The weakness in her game is...honestly, I don't know. I think she's one of the best players in the area and that she'll fit right in our program."
-ACC women's coach Bobby Allen on Karina Cole
Other honors earned by Cole include making the 2014 North Star League first team and the class C All-State first team. Cole was also on the All-Alpena News All-Area girls basketball team every year she played varsity ball.
Cherwinski was kind of a big deal herself. She was one of the top players on an always competitive Joburg team and helped lead the Cardinals to several district championships. She was named to the 2014 Gaylord Herald Times All-Area girls first team and helped the Cardinals beat the Cole-led Tigers in the 2013 district finals.
Both players attracted interest and offers from larger schools all over the state, but opted for the smaller hometown community of ACC.
"I really wanted to stay close to home and give my parents and grandparents the chance to see me play," Cole said. "I'll think I'll learn a lot here and hopefully I can use it later if I play at a bigger school, when I finish here."
Her future ACC coach, Bobby Allen, has scouted Cole for years and is well aware of the caliber of her skills.
"The weakness in her game is...honestly, I don't know. I think she's one of the best players in the area and that she'll fit right in our program," Allen said. "(Her high school) program was good and now I can kind of take over and help take her to that next level."
Cole is an aggressive shooting guard with a deep knowledge of the game. She has an intuitive understanding of when to implement the right play and how to put points on the board.
Few areas of the court are safe from Cole's offensive attack. Her speed make fast breaks common, while her pin-point shooting beyond the arc makes her a deadly perimeter threat when the scoring lanes are blocked.
These well-rounded offensive skills are matched by a highly honed defensive ability. She averaged five steals a game, three assists and 7.5 rebounds.
"I know I'll be playing shooting guard, but I'll play whatever position they need as long as it helps the team," Cole said.
The signing of Cole and Cherwinski couldn't have come at a better time for the Lumberjacks. They are losing most of their skilled sophomore players and will need the kind of high caliber skills that Cole and Cherwinski can offer.
"They can fill that void left by Whitney (Frazier) and Ashleigh (Monticello). They're definitely similar kinds of players," Allen said.
Cole has been a highly dedicated basketball player from a young age. She spent most of her summers playing travel ball to better herself and had the advantage of being coached by father Brad Cole.
"My knowledge as a basketball coach had been exhausted on her. I taught her all I knew about positioning and screens and how to get her open, but she'd progressed past where I could teach her any more," Brad said. "(Allen) has a very ambitious program lined up for her and I think she will really grow here."
Basketball is deeply ingrained in the Cole family. Karina was not only coached by her father, but played side-by-side with younger sister Kendra. On the sidelines, her mother Lucy takes stats and her grandparents attend every one of her games.
"One of her big advantages was that she had her father as a coach. He opened up the gym at the school and worked out with her and could share his basketball knowledge one-on-one. Not many players get that (advantage)," Allen said.
Eric Benac can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5690. Follow Eric on Twitter @EricBenac.