D-I dreams

Senior first to sign Division I letter in girls basketball program

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There have been numerous signings of Moffat County High School athletes, but none quite like this one.

Senior Cayla Maneotis signed her national letter of intent with the University of Northern Colo--rado on Wednesday to play basketball for the Bears.

It is the first time for one of Coach Craig Mortensen's basketball players to sign with a Division I school.

"We're really proud of her," Mortensen said. "And Cayla's excited about it."

Maneotis credits her development to her parents and Mortensen, putting countless hours in at the gym and working tirelessly to improve her game.

"I've done a lot of things throughout the years to improve," Maneotis said.

One of those things includes the 6'5" senior heading to the Front Range for summer basketball.

"Just playing with those girls -- they are stronger and quicker and bigger. And that's helping me prepare for college," Maneotis said.

Now that some of the pressure is off, Maneotis is looking forward to relaxing and just playing basketball during her final year of high school.

"It's cool that I reached one of my biggest goals," Maneotis said. "And now I just need to work hard to succeed at that level."

Mortensen began working with Maneotis at the junior high level. He said she has taken significant strides to become a better player.

"She has always been willing to come to the gym," Mortensen said. "She wants to get better."

Mortensen also said the turnaround has been tremendous since the beginning.

"Really, literally, she almost couldn't catch a ball when she was younger," Mortensen said. "And now she's got good hands, she has a good shot and she's worked on her physical skills."

As far as UNC is concerned, Maneotis said once she made a visit, she knew it was where she belonged.

"I really liked the location, because it's not too far from home, but far enough," Maneotis said. "I liked the coaching staff, and their post coach, Paige Sauer, played at UConn and spent time in the WNBA."

Maneotis said that the school contacted her in June. It was the first time she had considered the school, because she had gone on visits to Colorado State University and the University of Colorado.

"I had another offer from Southern Utah University, but UNC just felt like home," Maneotis said.

The recruiting process and signing day was a first for the Maneotis family. Cayla's parents, John and Jeanne, said they were surprised by all the procedures.

"At times it has been overwhelming," Jeanne said.

But they said they have stuck with their daughter's goal of playing at a high level.

"As a parent, you have to push your kids to push themselves," Jeanne said. "A few people have asked us, 'Does Cayla really want to play?' and I always go back to the fifth grade, when we found out how bad Cayla wanted to. They couldn't find a coach for the AAU team, and she was so mad."

UNC coach Jaime White is looking forward to developing a new era of basketball at the university, and it all starts with recruits. UNC signed five players to national letters Wednesday.

"We are extremely excited about all the kids we did sign," White said.

Melanie McDaniels can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 211, or mmcdaniels@craigdailypress.com.

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