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Courtney (Stapp) Pool never played basketball for the awards, although she has a boatload of them. She was never about being named to halls of fame, although she is now a member of two of them.

She is proof of all that can happen with competition and hard work.

The former Newell High School All-American, All-Stater, Gatorade Player of the Year and 1993 South Dakota Miss Basketball was recently named to the University of Wyoming Athletics Hall of Fame after her stellar career on the basketball court as a Cowgirl. 

And she, along with sister Taran, previously were named to the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

The call from Laramie a couple of weeks ago left her in shock and in tears.

"Honestly, I was crying. Paul (husband) was crying," she said. "It was such a blessing. I couldn't thank them enough. It just means the world to me.

"It is one of those things where you realize what good teammates that you had; what a good coach you had. They all were sending me messages. (Former UW head coach) Chad Lavin called me and we talked for a good hour; it was so nice to hear his voice again and we could talk about the old war stories and different things."

A talented all-around player at UW (1995-1998), Pool scored 1,278 points during her Cowgirl career. As a freshman, she made an immediate impact and was named to the Western Athletic Conference All-Newcomer Team. A two-time all-Western Athletic Conference honoree, she also earned academic all-conference and WAC Scholar Athlete honors. During her senior season, she led the team in scoring at 17.6 points per game, assists, 3-point shooting, minutes played and field goals. 

Now a teacher and freshman volleyball coach at Rapid City Stevens, Pool considers herself lucky, from her early days in Newell, to her final season at Wyoming.

The name Stapp was synonymous with West River basketball in the 1990s and early 2000s. Sister Taran (Corson), two years younger, joined her to play at Wyoming, while the youngest Stapp, Jordan (Proefrock), also played at Jacksonville State and is now the head girls' coach at Sturgis Brown High School.

Courtney said their success all came about from her parents, Harry and Merri Stapp, and all of her coaches and teammates.

Her father was a college football player at Northern State, and her mom would always tell a story that with three daughters, people would say, "Shoot, Harry just never had a boy."

"We would laugh about it because we were all so into sports, and he was such a big part of that," she said. "It's just been part of our lives." 

Under no circumstances did she believe any of these honors would happen.

She didn't play for the awards ... she played to compete and win.

"I had big goals and my parents were super supportive of all of those," she said. "But it was never about me getting a scholarship or me being in the hall of fame. It was always about competing, to be the best that you can be, and to make your team better, to try to win a state championship in Newell."

From Newell to Laramie

On her first recruiting trip to Wyoming, when she got home, she told her mom, "Oh my gosh, Laramie has a McDonald's and a Burger King."

It seemed pretty big-city life at the time, but being a Division I athlete was much more than having fast food options.

The competition, the education, camaraderie ... it was about growing up.

"Amy Burnett (former Miss SD Basketball from Huron) was a senior, and I knew Amy from different things that we had done together," she said. "She took me under her wing and showed me around."

Pool came in expecting to play right away. It didn't take her long to figure out that this wasn't Newell anymore.

Lavin, who came to Wyoming from the University of South Dakota, specifically reminded her of that one day in practice.

"We were doing something on defense and Lavin said, 'What do you do when this girl has her back to you? Stapp, what do you do?'" I said, "You go for the steal." And he said, "No, you're not playing Timber Lake.

"But he was so awesome helping me adjust to that. It was competitive every day, but I liked that."

After a stellar freshman campaign, Pool struggled some with various injuries in her sophomore year, but she came back strong in her junior and senior seasons with the arrival of Taran.

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As it turned out, it was a dream come true to play with her sister again, and eventually coach her youngest sister.

"I'm really a homebody," she said. "I feel like I played my best basketball then when I had them so close."

Pool said there were perks of being a Division I athlete — the training, the tutors and full-ride scholarships. And there was not only the coaching she received, but the basketball education in other areas.

She remembers sneaking into the Arena-Auditorium to watch former Utah men's coaching great Rick Majerus in practice (the Utes were playing the Cowboys), as well as then-Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins (now at West Virginia).

"I just loved basketball, so I would go in and just sit and watch to see what they would do," she said. "It was almost like icing on the cake."

At the same time, being a Division I athlete was not easy.

"They expect a lot out of you grade-wise and they expect a lot out of you on the floor," she said. "You are constantly competing all of the time, but that obviously makes you better. There was a lot of hard work, but man, was it fun."

A strong all-around athlete, 3-point shooting might have been her bread and butter at Wyoming. It didn't necessarily start out that way. Her off-season work led her to become one of the top sharpshooters in the program's history.

"I really worked on my 3 because I thought that was how I could get myself into the games and get playing time," she said. "Once I got in there, my last two years I started getting my mid-range jumper back and creating and trying to dish. My senior year I had quite a few assists too.

From player to coach

Her five years as Newell head coach was a special time for her, she said, not just as a coach, but as a sister, watching and coaching Jordan and all of her teammates.

And to be an Irrigator again.

"I always think back that it was really cool that I played with one sister and coached the other," she said. "It was way fun. But once (Jordan) graduated, I decided I needed to go do something else."

After leaving Newell High School as a coach, she got her Master's degree in California and went to the Dallas area where Taran was living. She then coached and taught and met her husband, Paul, who was a baseball coach.

They eventually came back to South Dakota where they got teaching jobs, and Paul was a longtime head baseball coach at American Legion Post 320, before coaching last summer as an assistant at Post 22 (Expos head coach).

It's all about family and coming home again.

Pool hasn't coached basketball since, although she admits that she misses it, and who knows — maybe someday she will again.

"I do love basketball so much," she said.

Hall of Fame induction

The Wyoming Hall of Fame induction is Aug. 30, the weekend of the Cowboys' football season opener against Missouri.

Memories of her days as a Cowgirl have been flooding back since her call from the Hall. It will be a tsunami of old war stories when she goes back to Laramie for the ceremony.

"I am so excited for that. I cannot wait to see all of those guys," she said. "Some of my teammates are coming, Coach Lavin and his wife are coming, and my sister. It is going to fun to just be back there. I can't wait to talk to everyone and support the 'Pokes."

Although husband Paul is still a die-hard Oklahoma football fan, he is a semi-converted Cowboy rooter. If Courtney has her way, just maybe some day some of her nieces and nephews, and her own children, Cale, 8, and Pyper, 5, could also be Cowgirls and Cowboys.

"That would be cool, heck yeah," she said with a laugh.

 Once a Cowgirl, always a Cowgirl.

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Sports Editor

Sports reporter for the Rapid City Journal.