MASON – Autumn Kissman initially thought her path to college athletics would revolve around her skills on the softball field.
But the focus shifted to the hardwood a few years ago, which set things in motion for Kissman to become Mason’s first Division I girls basketball recruit in more than decade.
Kissman made her college decision official Wednesday when she signed with the Oakland University women’s basketball program in front of family, coaches and friends during a ceremony at Mason High School.
“I’ve been looking forward to this ever since I committed,” Kissman said. “It just feels good for all my hard work to finally pay off.”
Kissman is the first Mason girls basketball player to sign with a Division I program since 2003 graduate Megan Thorburn (Bowling Green). Kate Verseput (Western Michigan) and Kristin Haynie (Michigan State) were also Division I players produced by the school in the early 2000s.
Mason girls basketball coach Jen Walkington said Wednesday’s signing was a testament to the dedication Kissman has made to working on her skills.
“She is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around,” Walkington said. “If she doesn’t do it right the first time, she will work harder and harder and harder. She never leaves the gym. She is constantly working. She always wants to get better and she always wants to win. Her competitiveness is something we could only hope for in the player, but she is fantastic kid. I was very fortunate to walk in (to this job) and have a D-I player there.”
Walkington is excited about the upcoming season with the 6-foot-4 Kissman, who earned Class A Associated Press first team and BCAM all-state honors last winter, back for her final season. The Bulldogs reached a district final last season and Walkington believes more success is in store.
“I think we’ll be able to compete a little better in the league this year and I think we’ll be able to compete a little better in the tournament and maybe go a little bit further this year,” Walkington said. “She’s at her strongest right now and I look forward to seeing what she can do.”
Mason senior tennis standout Olivia Hanover also was part of Wednesday’s ceremony and signed with Grand Valley State University. Hanover is coming off a strong junior season where she finished 27-3 and was the Division 2 runner-up at No. 1 singles.
“I’m really excited,” Hanover said. “I’m glad I’m joining a program where I can win hopefully GLIAC championships and make an impact on a team right as a freshman. I’m really excited about that. All the girls on the team are really awesome and hard working and I can’t wait to be a part of that.”
Hanover will join Mason graduate Abby Perkins in the Grand Valley tennis program next year. But before she begins that chapter, Hanover hopes for a strong final season of high school tennis in the spring.
“(Falling in the state title match) is a good incentive for me and it only makes me work harder,” Hanover said. “I look at it as motivation.”