High School Sports

Two Thurston County stars sign with Division I programs

Tumwater's Croft, Timberline's Stevenson sign to play for Division I programs

Tumwater’s Kennedy Croft (Gonzaga volleyball) and Timberline’s Erik Stevenson (Wichita State basketball) signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday.
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Tumwater’s Kennedy Croft (Gonzaga volleyball) and Timberline’s Erik Stevenson (Wichita State basketball) signed National Letters of Intent Wednesday.

Two high school athletics standouts from Thurston County signed their National Letters of Intent to play for Division I programs.

Tumwater’s Kennedy Croft, a star outside hitter who has led the T-Birds to four consecutive state tournaments, including two Class 2A titles, signed to play at Gonzaga University.

Stevenson, a three-star shooting guard from Timberline, inked his commitment with Wichita State University men’s basketball.

Both Croft and Stevenson made things official Wednesday morning at their respective high schools after longstanding verbal commitments.

Croft committed to Gonzaga in July of last year, before her junior season began. She took a trip to visit the campus in Spokane for a volleyball camp, spent one hour there, and decided that was where she’d continue her career.

“I really like the coaching staff, and the mindset of the whole program is so good,” Croft said.

The 5-foot-10 outside hitter, and two-time Olympian All-Area selection, led the T-Birds to state titles her freshman and junior seasons. Due to a recurring shin injury, she’s shifted to libero for this weekend’s state tournament, and looks to bring home her third title with Tumwater this weekend at Saint Martin’s University in Lacey.

She has recorded 1,187 kills entering the final week of her high school career, including 250 this season in 42 sets before her injury. Croft was on track to beat her own school record for single-season kills.

Croft has been a dominating presence for Tumwater during her four-year career, setting program records for kills in a match (42), kills in a season (404) and aces in a season (46). She is a three-time 2A Evergreen Conference MVP, and was named the Gatorade state volleyball player of the year following her junior season.

Croft was recruited by Gonzaga as a libero, but remains a versatile weapon. She’ll join a Bulldogs program that is 13-12 so far this season, and hopes to contribute to its success in the coming years.

“I just know in the future, it’s going to keep growing,” Croft said. “They want to be a winning program, and that’s what I want, so it seemed like the perfect fit.”

Stevenson, a 6-4 shooting guard, verbally committed to Wichita State in June following a long recruiting period, during which he netted offers from several Division I programs — including Pac-12 schools Utah, Washington and Washington State.

Before arriving home from his first trip to Kansas last spring, Stevenson gave a firm commitment to veteran coach Gregg Marshall, and did not waver.

“It’s a great chance for me,” Stevenson said in June. “Coach Marshall is my type of guy. We both have the mindset to prove people wrong.”

“We see him like a Ron Baker-type player who can hopefully play right away,” Marshall told The Wichita Eagle on Wednesday afternoon. “He’s a really, really good player who was offered by a slew of Pac 12 schools and just loved Wichita State. I think he’s really going to fit in well here.”

Wichita State opened at No. 7 in the Associated Press preseason rankings in October after losing to Kentucky in the second round of the NCAA tournament in March. The Shockers have advanced to the tournament the past six seasons, including a Final Four appearance in 2013.

“I think he made the best possible choice as far as a school goes,” Timberline coach Allen Thomas told The Olympian in June. “Their approach to basketball is very similar to how he wants to play — gritty.”

Stevenson is a two-time Olympian All-Area selection, and was named all-state honorable mention last season as a junior. He led Timberline to a 3A state tournament appearance in March, and averaged 19.5 points per game his junior season.

He put up 45 points against crosstown rival North Thurston in a 3A South Sound Conference game last December, breaking Timberline’s single-game scoring record previously set by Donaven Dorsey, who now plays at Montana.

Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473, @smithlm12