Five Lady T-Birds Move to Next Level

By: Lisa S. Icenogle
Thunderbird Basketball News

Five sophomores from the 2017-2018 Region IX NJCAA Women’s Basketball Champions, the Casper College Thunderbirds, signed their letters of intent to move onto the next level of their basketball and educational careers on Wednesday, May 2.

Gulten (Rose) Altunbulak will play for the NCAA Division II Texas A&M International University Dustdevils, who went 3-26 under second-year Head Coach Jeff Caha and play in the NCAA Division II Heartland Conference. Altunbulak, the 5’6” guard from Alanya, Turkey, averaged 3.5 points, 2.1 assists, and 1.8 rebounds per game and had a field goal percentage of 34.4 for the year.

“I believe Rose will be very successful at Texas A & M International. She is a very good passer and scorer. Rose’s quickness and explosiveness are almost where they were before the knee injury she suffered in 2016, and I believe her best basketball is ahead of her,” said Thunderbird Head Coach Dwight Gunnare. TAMIU is located in Laredo, Texas

Caroline Rivera, the 5’8” guard from Las Vegas, will play ball for the NCAA Division I Ragin’ Cajuns of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette who play in the Sun Belt Conference. “The Ragin’ Cajuns will be getting a very athletic combo guard who should help her new team both offensively and defensively,” Gunnare said.

For the Birds, Rivera averaged 5.3 points and 2.5 rebounds per game and had a field goal percentage of 36.4 and a 74.1 free throw percentage for the year. The Ragin’ Cajuns went 17-16 for the 2017-2018 season under Head Coach Garry Brodhead, who took the program over in the summer of 2012.

Barcelona, Spain’s Paula Orenes Sanchez will play for the Panthers of Florida International University in Miami. The Panthers are a member of the NCAA Division I Conference USA. The 5’8” guard averaged 10.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game and had a field goal percentage of 37.8 and a 76.9 percentage from the free throw line for the year.

“Paula is a very talented scoring guard and has a strong understanding of the game of basketball. I believe she will be a very good addition to FIU’s women’s basketball program,” said Gunnare. The Panthers went 8-21 for the 2017-2018 season under second-year Head Coach Tiara Malcom.

The NCAA Division I University of South Carolina – Upstate Spartans of Spartanburg, South Carolina, will welcome Natalia Panufnik for the 2018-2019 year. During the 2017-2018 season, the Spartans, who play in the Atlantic Sun Conference, went 11-19 under Tammy George who finished her 12th season as head coach.

The 5’10” forward from Wolomin, Poland, averaged 6.9 points and 4.0 rebounds per game and had a field goal percentage of 47.4 and an 81.6 percentage from the free throw line for the year. “I believe the Spartans are aware of Natalia’s skill set but what they are going to find is that the energy she plays with when she is on the court is her strongest asset. She has a very promising future ahead of her,” Gunnare said.

The final player to sign a letter of commitment is 5’7” guard Ashlie Larson from Miles City, Montana. Larson, who averaged 9.2 points and 2.6 rebounds per game had a field goal percentage of 43.0 and a 70.6 percentage in free throws for the year, will play for the Blue Hawks of Dickinson State University in Dickinson, North Dakota.

The Blue Hawks, who play in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics North Star Athletic Association, went 5-24 for the 2017-2018 season under first-year Head Coach Liz Lewis. “Ashley has one of the highest basketball IQ’s and is one of the best spot-up shooters I have coached,” said Gunnare, adding “I am very excited to follow Ashley’s successful career at Dickinson State.”

Under Gunnare, the Lady Thunderbirds went 31-3 for the 2017-2018 season.

Media contact: Lisa S. Icenogle

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