Seated at a table alongside five of his former teammates Thursday, Casper College sophomore point guard Isaac Bonton was asked to sum up the Thunderbirds’ recently completed season.
“We made history this year,” he said. “And right now I’m just happy for my guys.”
Bonton was one of 12 Casper College athletes — six from men’s basketball, four from women’s basketball and two from volleyball — to sign with their respective colleges in the lobby of Swede Erickson Thunderbird Gym. Bonton, who signed with Washington State, was one of eight T-Birds to sign with a Division I program.
A second-team All-America selection and the Region IX Co-Player of the Year, Bonton was joined at the table by Wilfried Likayi (New Mexico State University), Zion Tordoff (Marist College), Keiron Goodwin (DII Winona State) and James Hampshire and Broc Finstuen (University of the Pacific). The group, along with guard Amin Adamu, who has yet to commit, and a handful of freshmen helped lead the T-Birds (32-3) to a No. 6 national ranking, the Region IX championship and the program’s first trip to the NJCAA National Championships since 1996.
Finstuen, who had primarily DII offers when he graduated from high school in Pine Island, Minnesota, never doubted that he would end up at a DI program.
“It took a long time to believe it was going to happen,” he said. “But I just had to keep working and never give up. This means the world to me.”
The rest of the signees shared similar sentiments, with all of them mentioning how their specific school was “a perfect fit” or “the best option for me.”
It was hard to disagree with Jaye Johnson, who was a two-year starter at Natrona County High School before signing with the T-Birds. Next season she’ll suit up for first-year coach Gerald Mattinson at the University of Wyoming. Mattinson takes over for Joe Legerski, who retired last week after 16 seasons leading the Cowgirls.
“Coach Mattinson is the one who recruited me so I’ve got a good relationship with him,” Johnson said.
Johnson credited teammate Lucie Hoskova, an honorable mention All-American who signed with the University of San Francisco, for getting her to this point in her basketball career.
“I had a lot of work to do when I first got here,” Johnson said. “Going against Lucie every day in practice definitely made me better.”
Johnson and Hoskova, who called committing to USF “an easy choice,” were seated alongside Rock Springs product Maggie Justinak (Metro State in Denver) and Spain native Nerea Baena (Barry University in Florida).
While at Casper College they won the Region IX championship last year and played in the title game this season.
“Casper College has been amazing,” Justinak said. “Coming here was the best choice I ever made.”
The day’s festivities began with volleyball players Tyler Speller and Tasmyn Fahey signing their LOIs. Speller will play at Colorado State University-Pueblo while Fahey will play for DI North Carolina A&T State.