Gouard at home with Golden Grizzlies

Gouard at home with Golden Grizzlies

DANVILLE — Sydney Gouard's calendar year has included some life-changing moments when it comes to basketball.

On Feb. 24, Gouard and her Schlarman teammates topped Stockton 53-31 in the Class 1A state championship game to give the Hilltoppers' program their first state title.

Last Saturday, Gouard turned her focus to college hoops when she committed to Oakland University.

"It felt like home there," Gouard said. "The staff there was so welcoming, and ever since (I visited) it just felt right."

The rising high school senior carried college basketball offers from the Golden Grizzlies as well as Iona and St. Bonaventure — all Division I programs.

That makes Gouard the second current Schlarman hoopster to declare her future with a D-I club, following in the footsteps of fellow rising senior Anaya Peoples (Notre Dame).

"Oakland was my top (school) because it's in Michigan, and New York is so far away," said Gouard, referencing the location of both Iona and St. Bonaventure. "The distance was a big factor in my decision."

The 5-foot-10 athlete spent Schlarman's 2017-18 campaign handling post duties and proved effective in that regard. Gouard averaged 9.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals for a squad that went 33-1.

Gouard said the Oakland staff, led by head coach Jeff Tungate, envisions her playing shooting guard, small forward or power forward — or a combination of the three.

"They say I'm a good floor leader and able to make the right plays," Gouard said. "(The staff told me) I talk well and communicate with my teammates. That's definitely something I strive for when playing in front of college coaches."

Gouard said Oakland, which competes in the Horizon League, first showed up on her radar last May. Gouard was sending her basketball resume to various college coaches, and Golden Grizzlies assistant Andrea Williams got in touch shortly thereafter.

"She texted me back and came to one of my games and said she loved my game," Gouard said. "It went uphill from there."

Oakland posted a 15-16 record last season, including a 7-11 ledger in the Horizon League. Tungate and his crew boast six athletes in their most recent recruiting class, but it's not immediately clear the size of Gouard's class for the 2019 recruiting haul.

Getting his Hilltoppers to D-I status has been a stated goal for coach Keith Peoples, and Gouard is glad she was able to make that a reality.

"It's every kid's dream to go play for a Division I school, but just being able to play after college — it's just a blessing either way," she said. "It's definitely something I've always strived for."

Gouard has not yet met her future teammates, as they were dealing with finals when she made her initial visit to the institution in Rochester, Mich. But that didn't stop her from taking away plenty of positives in her interactions with Tungate and his assistants.

"They just kept it real the whole time," Gouard said. "The head coach told me and my parents that when he's there to coach, he's not just coaching you as a player. He's helping you as a person."

Now, Gouard can place all of her basketball attention on Schlarman's attempt to repeat as 1A state champions this upcoming season.

And Hilltoppers fans shouldn't expect the gritty, versatile athlete to change her ways during her final prep season at Schlarman just because her college future is now clear.

"I'm going to definitely play hard every time," Gouard said. "I'm going to play my game the same way all the time, no matter what."