Stanford girls basketball lineup will soon fill with Colorado talent

Grandview Regis Jesuit girls basketball

(Jack Eberhard/JacksActionShots.com)

Cherry Creek point guard Jana Van Gytenbeek didn't have to think twice when she declared her intentions for college. Once Stanford came calling she delivered a firm yes.

Just a junior, Van Gytenbeek will play out her final two years with the Bruins then head to Palo Alto to continue her athletic career and education.

“Ever since I was little Stanford has been my dream school," she said. "I went to camp there my fifth-grade year and again, it was just my dream school. It was always the goal for me.”

Here's the most exciting part for her. When she gets there, she'll have plenty of company from home. Regis Jesuit's Fran Belibi and Discovery Canyon's Ashten Prechtel are headed there in 2019. When it comes to finding top talent, The Setsuko Ishiyama Director of Women's Basketball Tara VanDerveer has kept her eyes on the Rocky Mountains.

At first glance it might appear that two players from this year's class and Van Gytenbeek for next makes for a unique praise in talent from the Division I level. But a closer look at recent years only suggest that with every season, the overall level in play from the state has been on the rise.

“The last couple of years Colorado has been up and coming," Belibi said. "I know a lot of people don’t think about Colorado as one of the go-to states for basketball but with Kylee Shook going to Louisville and Michaela Onyenwere going to UCLA and now the three of us going to Stanford, I think it’s showing that Colorado is started to have those top athletes. The rest of the nation and a lot of the other colleges throughout the country are starting to notice that too.”

It's not hard to notice with these three. Van Gytenbeek stood out way back when as a freshman guard. This season she's averaging 19.4 points and 4.6 assists per game.

Discovery Canyon girls basketball Ashten Prechtel

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)

The twin towers to be in Belibi and Prechtel have been equally impressive in their positions. Belibi scores almost 24 points and pulls down 13.5 rebounds per game. Prechtel is scoring 19.7 and grabbing 15.8 boards each contest. She's also blocking five shots each game.

Where Belibi stands out is her ability to go viral on social media with her dunks. They've become so routine to some degree, but Colorado basketball fans never tire of them and neither does VanDerveer.

"Fran's dunks are amazing and she's a leaper that will be a huge help for us on the glass," VanDerveer told GoStanford.com after Belibi signed. "Especially since we'll lose Alanna (Smith) and Shannon (Coffee) to graduation, having someone coming in with her exceptional rebounding ability is vital."

A few years down the road when they all find their way onto the court, the Cardinal will have a lot going for itself.

“They’re both amazing players," Prechtel said. "They’re going to bring so much to the team for next year and for Jana the year after that. I’m excited to play with them and the rest of the team at Stanford.”

With basketball season in full swing, the trio doesn't get to talk and hangout as much as they'd like. Van Gytenbeek and Belibi have played together outside of their high school teams and have run across Prechtel in big basketball atmospheres, such as the USA trials in Colorado Springs.

But the chemistry between them will only grow over the next year.

“Jana and I have been close the last few years because we play 3-on-3 together," Belibi said. "We don’t get to see Ashten as much because she’s in a different group, but we have our freshman group chats. We don’t get to talk too much right now since we’re in season, but I’m excited to be able to get to know them better.”

For now, they all have their eyes on respective prizes. Currently Belibi has helped Regis Jesuit become the Class 5A No. 1-ranked team in the state. Coming off a big win over Grandview, the Raiders have their eyes on a deep playoff run.

The road might be a touch tougher for Prechtel as Discovery Canyon plays in the 4A Pikes Peak Athletic Conference where Air Academy currently reigns as the top team in the state.

Van Gytenbeek still has two years to go and, although will be behind the others by a year, is looking froward to what the rest of her high school journey will hold even if parts of her wishes she was in the same class as Belibi and Prechtel.

“In a way, yes," she said. "But I’m also really focused on the present right now and I’m excited that I get two more years of high school to try and win a state championship.”

If Stanford (currently the No. 8 team in the nation) can maintain its high level of play, it's not crazy to imagine three Colorado girls helping them compete for a national championship in just a few years.

These three girls have found a common motivation through basketball and academics and all agreed that Stanford was going to be the place for them. And the best part is they'll be able to share it with each other and have a slice of home with them on what is sure to be an amazing journey.

“They’re both amazing players," Prechtel said. "They’re going to bring so much to the team for next year and for Jana the year after that. I’m excited to play with them and the rest of the team at Stanford.”

Cherry Creek Ralston Valley girls basketball Jana Van Gytenbeek

(Dan Mohrmann/CHSAANow.com)