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Bents starts over again at the college level
Sara Bents

Sara Bents senior year at Billings West was:

A. Spectacular

B. Impressive

C. Amazing

D. All of the above

E. All of the above, and then some

The correct answer is … E.

Athletically, Bents reached the top of the mountain and beyond.

State titles, Gatorade honor

During the 2004-05 school year, she helped both the volleyball and basketball teams win state titles, earned all-state honors in both along with track and field, was the Montana Gatorade player of the year for volleyball and was chosen the Midland Roundtable Athlete of the Year as Billings' top female high school athlete.

And even before it all started, Bents had committed to play basketball for Denver University, a Division I program.

"It was a lot of fun," said Bents during the lunch break at the Billings West volleyball camps where she is one of the instructors.

"It was amazing, actually. I realize not everybody gets to do what I did."

A few months later, Bents learned for every ying, there is a yang. For every up, there is a down. She became friends with one of Sir Isaac Newton's basic tenets:

"For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction."

Her welcome to college sports was a smack to the face.

Literally.

Bents was a late bloomer in volleyball, having her break-out season as a senior. By then, most college volleyball programs had already finished their recruiting.

"I learned that's just part of the business," she said with a shrug.

But the Pioneers basketball staff saw a tremendous upside in 6-foot, 1-inch Bents, who averaged just six points a game during her junior basketball season.

"I love both sports and I do miss volleyball here and there," said Bents. "But I felt my game was more in basketball."

"And I have family in Denver, just a mile away. It's a place to drop off my laundry," she finished with a smile.

Bents was more than holding her own during pre-season workouts at Denver but found the pick-up games a little rougher than high school.

"I kept getting hit in the head and the nose … elbows every where," said Bents.

One elbow found its mark during a scrimmage in early practice.

"I took a blow straight to the bridge of my nose," she recalled. "It shook everything up."

Bents suffered blurry vision for more than an hour and had strong headaches for the next six days.

After her head cleared, Bents returned to practice.

"I was feeling good. We were running sprints and I felt something tweak," she said. "I had shooting pains up my leg into my calf."

Sidelined by fracture

X-rays showed a four-inch long stress fracture at the base of her right ankle. She missed the next four weeks.

Bents wore a boot for four weeks, even getting on the stationary bike with her foot encased in plastic. "That was a little tough," she said.

"I was really frustrated. I called my mom (Joanne Bents) a lot. It was like, 'What else can happen to me?' I thought about coming home. My mom was really supportive and reminded me I still had to go to school."

Joanne Bents also offered a mother's take on the injuries. "She said you'll have all your injuries in the first year, instead of all four," said the daughter.

Bents made her collegiate debut on New Year's Eve against Northern Colorado. She played 10 minutes and scored two points.

Bents played in 14 games for the Pioneers last season, averaging almost eight minutes a game. Her best outing was seven points on 3 for 3 shooting and a free throw against Western Kentucky.

Adjusted playing time was also part of the learning process.

"You go from 32 minutes a game (in high school) to about 10, if you're lucky," said Bents, who is majoring in math. "You have to get used to being a freshman again. You just have to get better, like you did in high school."

And Denver coaching staff has thrown another challenge at Bents this summer.

They want her to become more of a perimeter player. A pure post player at Billings West, they want to move Bents outside and take advantage of her athleticism.

"They want me to work on driving to the basket," she explained. "People know I can shoot and come right at me. The coaches want me to work on a one-dribble pull up. I'm used to catch and shoot. They want me to be able to shoot the 3-pointer.

"I'm getting better. I just have to keep working so I get more playing time next season."

Bents' next 3-pointer will be her first. "I never shot one in high school," said with another big smile.

To reach that next goal, Bents follows a work out book given to her by the Denver coaching staff, then lifts weights, does some cardio and some individual skill work in the evenings.

"And if I can, I'm supposed to find a pick up game and play," Bents said with a chuckle. "It's a long day, but it's all for the best."

Joe Kusek can be reached at 657-1393 or jkusek@billingsgazette.com

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