Feb. 23, 2015
In college athletics, dynamic duos don’t come along on a regular basis. Usually, one player basks in the spotlight, but for UCCS four players share the spotlight, propelling the Mountain Lions into national contention.
Juniors Derrick White, guard, and forward Alex Welsh make up the men’s side. On the women’s side, sophomore forward Brittany Hernandez and senior guard Abby Kirchoff hold down their territory.
For White and Welsh, a bond that started their freshmen year has grown into an on-and-off the court friendship. The duo played together just one time prior coming to UCCS.
“I’ve always known [Derrick] from tournaments on the weekends when we were a lot younger,” said Welsh. “He used to be super small so I was shocked to see him at the Highlands Ranch league tip-slamming and doing crazy things. He just kept getting better.”
The thought of playing with Welsh excited White.
“Before the summer league, I just knew of him as some goofy kid from the Shining Stars [AAU Basketball Club],” said White. “I didn’t really know much about him, but I knew he played really well at Pomona [High School] and I was excited to play with him.”
The two joined forces for the Mountain Lions in the 2012-13 season, when the men’s team struggled to find wins.
Meanwhile, a guard on the women’s team had emerged as one of the top players for the university.
Kirchoff was the go-to player, but the team lacked another dynamic scorer. Then head coach Shawn Nelson brought in Hernandez for the 2014-15 season.
Hernandez comes off as a hardened individual, intimidating players around the conference. For the sophomore, there is more than what meets the eye, especially with her teammates.
“[My teammates] get to see a side of me that other people don’t,” said Hernandez. “A lot of people are intimidated by me but my teammates know me. I can be serious, but not around them.”
Hernandez left Colorado Christian to join forces with Kirchoff. It was chemistry at first sight. The team is backed by a capable supporting cast, while led by two offensive options that have the potential to break the scoreboard.
“It’s a lot easier having two people because if I’m having an off night, I know [Brittany] is going to have a good night,” said Kirchoff. “Also, if we’re both on, we can combine for 60 points a night.”
Entering play Feb. 20, the women’s duo has led their team to a 19-5 record. From a 5-21 season their freshmen year, White and Welsh have led their team to a 20-4 record this year.
Approaching the last week of play, the women’s team has their eyes on a revenge game against Regis, as the men count the hours until the awaited rivalry game against Metro State.
“We’ve been looking forward to Regis since the night we lost [to them],” said Kirchoff.
The men’s team hopes to sweep the series against Metro, a team that at one time served as the big brother to UCCS.
“When we were freshmen, this type of season seemed like a long ways away,” said White. “We watched Metro play and made them a benchmark of where we needed to be and the team we wanted to become.”