Kristy Ryan's jersey is likely to get some company in the rafters at the Nest, Sacramento State's home court where senior forward Kylie Kuhns has been rewriting the record books and leading a resurgence of the women's basketball program.
Kuhns' career accomplishments are worthy of the honor of retiring her No. 24 jersey, and hoisting it next to Ryan's likely will happen, Hornets coach Jamie Craighead said. Ryan starred for the Hornets from 1990 to '94 and still owns most of the school's scoring records.
Craighead said Kuhns' importance to the program has been significant. The team's co-captain will graduate this spring as the only Hornet with more than 1,000 points and more than 1,000 rebounds. And with 1,133 career rebounds, she's on pace to break the Big Sky Conference's career record of 1,174.
In her final season, she's averaging 12.1 points and 10.5 rebounds. And at 6 feet, Kuhns regularly gives up several inches to her Big Sky opponents.
"It's all starting to hit me," Kuhns said of her final season. "It's coming to an end really fast."
Said Craighead earlier this week: "Her records speak for themselves, and her impact on the program has just been huge."
Kuhns is Sac State's career leader in rebounds and steals and is in the top 10 in six other categories. She's never missed a game because of injury in her four seasons and has played the last 10 games with a nagging Achilles' tendon.
Kuhns had game highs of 20 points and eight rebounds to lead the Hornets (14-9, 9-5 Big Sky) to an 80-62 victory at home Thursday against North Dakota (10-14, 5-10). The Hornets host Northern Colorado (14-9, 11-3) today at 2 p.m., and a victory would bring the Hornets to within one game of the Bears and second place in the conference.
Craighead, an associate head coach when she recruited Kuhns out of Sprague High School in Salem, Ore., said Kuhns always has had a knack for rebounding (Kuhns still holds the Oregon prep record with 34 rebounds in a game, set as a junior). With the Hornets' up-tempo style of play, Kuhns' relative lack of height wouldn't be as much of a liability, Craighead figured.
"Our style has allowed her to shine, and I don't know how things would have gone for a 6-0 kid banging in the paint or in the halfcourt," Craighead said. "But she's also become a scoring threat and has been a great captain."
Taking a leadership role doesn't come as naturally for Kuhns as rebounding does. Like her overall game, she's evolved from a shy and quiet freshman on a senior-dominated team to a much more vocal and forceful presence on and off the court.
"Growing up, I was always a quiet kid and had a lot of self-confidence issues," said Kuhns, who started taekwondo in the fifth grade and became a national Junior Olympian, finishing fourth in black-belt forms as a seventh-grader. "Taekwondo really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and, looking back, that sport set me up for life. I learned discipline, and that carried over to school and other sports such as volleyball and basketball."
As a history major, Kuhns has a 3.83 grade- point average and will complete her collegiate career as a four-time Big Sky All-Academic scholar-athlete. She's applied to law schools across the country and says she's been accepted to Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee and Michigan State. But an acceptance letter from the University of Oregon may cause her to head home, she admitted.
"She's ready for her next adventure," said Craighead, who joked she could use the services of a good lawyer to sue the NCAA for another year of eligibility for Kuhns. "I'm proud of her, and as far as retiring her jersey who knows? But if we make the NCAA tourney, and the (Women's National Invitational Tournament) is also a possibility, it would solidify it if we go out and win a game in either of those tourneys. (Retiring her jersey) would really be an accomplishment."