By Dan Kelly EBS Contributor

BIG SKY – Since she was 5 years old at the Boys & Girls Club of Denver, Ausha Cole demonstrated a knack for basketball. When she started playing on the boys’ teams at the YMCA a few years later, they were hesitant to share the ball until she proved herself.

“They never wanted to pass the girl the ball until they found out she could actually play,” Cole recalls. After playing with several different teams throughout her elementary and middle school years in Denver, Cole moved to Mesa, Arizona.

In 2006 at Gilbert High School, Cole was part of a very strong incoming freshman class with three players, including herself, who would go on to play collegiate basketball, one at Morgan State University, one at Weber State University, and Cole at Montana State University. Under the tutelage of former NBA player John Ward, they grew and developed as players and young women. When Cole visited MSU on her initial recruiting visit, she knew she had found something special.

“Montana State was the first visit I had and I really … loved the mountains and the area,” Cole said. She made up her mind then and there to be a Bobcat. As a freshman point guard at MSU in the 2010-2011 season, Cole and the Bobcats would notch a pivotal win against Missoula’s Montana Grizzlies, ending a stretch of several winless years against the staunch in-state rival. Taking a season off in 2012, Cole gave birth to her first daughter, Cadence, and returned to the team the following year, continuing her role as a defensive standout and great passer.

After graduating in 2016, Cole served as director of operations for MSU basketball, and had the opportunity to work with former NBA-great John Stockton, who was assisting head coach Tricia Binford.

Nubia Garcia, also a former Bobcat basketball player, had seen Cole play at MSU, and asked her to join as an assistant coach for the Lone Peak Lady Big Horns. Cole also coached the middle school girls team with John Hannahs during the 2016-2017 season.

When Garcia moved on to coach the West Yellowstone Wolverines girls’ basketball team, Cole took over as head coach at Lone Peak High School. Although they now lead teams that are District 11C rivals, Garcia and Cole are great friends and, as former Bobcats, both have strong ties to basketball in southwest Montana.

“Nubia helped show me how to be a good role model and mentor to the players,” Cole said.

Cole hopes to provide mentorship and guidance to her players, and teach them to be good basketball players and human beings.

“This year we have five freshmen and only three girls returning. … With such a young team, we are trying to work on our chemistry,” she said. When asked about her goals for the team, she mentioned a trademark of her own playing career at MSU. “Obviously defense is a big thing we work on a lot … I would like to develop these girls to be the best players they can be.”

Coach Cole also welcomed a new addition to her family on Dec. 18, giving birth to a daughter, Scarlet.

With many more games left in the 2017-2018 season, EBS will be reporting on the progress and growth of the Lady Big Horns as they face off against District 11C rivals over the coming months.

The Lone Peak Lady Big Horns take on Twin Bridges on Jan. 5 at Lone Peak High School, followed by an away game at Gardiner on Jan. 6. The Lady Big Horns and coach Cole will play against former LPHS coach Nubia Garcia and the West Yellowstone Wolverines at home on Jan. 11.

For a complete season schedule visit bssd72.org.