Alli and Avi are taking their game from Ignacio to Denver.
Each accompanied by an impressive entourage of family and friends into the conference room at Ignacio High School on Monday, both Bobcat seniors put pen to paper and declared their intent to play basketball at Johnson and Wales University in Denver.
"When I was younger I never thought, I'd never go further than high school," said forward Allisianna 'Alli B.' Baker-Marquez. "And just getting the opportunity to do this is really great. I'm, like, still freaking out about it like, I don't believe it."
"I feel like I'm ready to play and show 'em what I've got," added guard Avionne 'Avi' Gomez. "They said most likely I will be playing this year - it was pretty cool hearing that. It was overwhelming; I thought, my last year's going to be my senior year in high school, but now I'm going to play again! I'm excited!"
"I'm just really proud of the two young ladies for their commitment," said IHS head coach Trae Seibel. "To go on and play college basketball, with the opportunity that they had. I'm glad they chose this route and made their signing official."
Seibel noted that Gomez's chance encounter with one of the Johnson & Wales assistant coaches at the 2018 Colorado Coaches of Girls' Sports All-State Games in Arvada really helped get the ball bouncing on the recruitment of not just one, but effectively both 'Cats.
"Avionne is a great player-she's a playmaker,'" Seibel said. "She can read and react, she's a motion-based basketball player, and I think that she could really help those guys out."
"When I knew that Avionne was going to go up to the school in April, make her visit, my wife Jenn, and my dad Shane said, 'You know what, Trae? Allisianna can do it. I know she can do it.' And I really started thinking about it; she has the capabilities, has the drive."
"So I called the coach at Johnson & Wales, said 'I have another player. She's a read-and-react player, and she's a tough kid, one of our top forwards,'" he continued. "I said, 'I'd be honored and appreciative if you could allow her to try out.' And he said, 'Absolutely. Have her come up with Avionne.'"
That was Monday, April 30, a day neither player will ever forget.
"It was not scary, but it was a little weird going into a different 'community,' seeing other people," recalled Gomez. "But I liked it; it was really nice and the people were nice."
"We went up there and met the coaches, visited the campus and everything. And it was really nice small, but big enough for us to get used to what we're doing," added Baker-Marquez. "We met one of the girls on the team and she was really cool."
"I messaged both of them that night and they told me they'd both got offers to play!" said Seibel. "That just made my heart so happy; I was ecstatic about it, I was driving at the time, and said, 'Oh my goodness!'"
Though each will bring her own skill set to JWU-the main campus of which is actually in Providence, Rhode Island-hoping to help boost a program which finished the 2017-18 season 5-17 overall and 1-7 against AII opposition, both players indicated they were looking forward to possibly sharing a dorm room, possibly pursuing the same major (psychology; Gomez's desired anthropology is not offered) and just generally having each other's back in the big city.
"Oh, it's so cool," Baker-Marquez (6.4 ppg in '17-18) said. "I was so excited to have her go up there with me, and I'm pretty sure we're going to room together, go into it as hard and as best we can, again at a higher level."
"It's awesome," agreed Gomez (15.0 ppg). "We've known each other for a really long time now, and coming up from Ignacio - to Denver, playing basketball - is a big jump for a small town. I think we are going to inspire a lot of girls wanting to play."
"They said we're going to have to work hard; we're not going to be given anything," Baker-Marquez stated. "That was totally expected; I'm always going to work hard, regardless, so it was really cool."
"You know, school comes first," she continued, "and so I expect myself to really not mess around. And on the court I want to be so much better than I was this season. I'm going to work so hard this summer; I'm going to be ready."
"This is the greatest thing that could happen to these young ladies: Having the opportunity to go to the same school, and continue playing basketball!" exclaimed Seibel.
THE GRINNING GUNNER: Asked to finally reveal the reasoning behind her trademark, near-permanent smile during the heat of battle, Gomez explained there was no real deep meaning or background.
"Because I'm a happy person," she said. "Sometimes I get mad, but then I just smile and try to forget about it."
PATCH ME UP, DOC: Asked about her well-known (locally, at least) injury history, Baker-Marquez proudly said that the unpleasant experiences simply motivated her more to succeed, even if college basketball still wasn't to be in her cards.
"I feel like the injuries helped me a lot; I don't think I would have had that 'drive' I do now if they'd never happened," she said. "I'm like, 'Wow! I really worked hard to get where I'm at!' And I just have to work even harder to stay, get better."