HELENA — When former Helena High School standout Kamden Hilborn was contemplating where she would continue her basketball career, she narrowed her decision down to two schools.
She could stay home and play for Carroll College, or she could leave the nest for an opportunity to play for Montana State.
But after realizing that Bozeman wasn’t a right fit, she knew exactly where she wanted to end up.
On Sunday, she confirmed on Twitter that she was signing with Carroll.
“I’m really thankful just to (Carroll) coach (Rachelle) Sayers and this opportunity she has given me to come home and be a part of this Saints family. She stuck it out with me and was patient with me,” Hilborn said. “I’m just excited to be a part of this amazing program.”
Hilborn was a three-sport athlete for the Bengals and had a hand in winning five state titles, including two in basketball.
During her junior and senior seasons, the 5-foot-7 point guard won the Class AA state tournament MVP award twice and averaged 10.5 points and 5.2 assists per game.
In her final game wearing a HHS uniform, Hilborn scored 22 points and grabbed six rebounds during a 53-49 state championship win over Missoula Sentinel in Billings.
“The first thing when I think about Kamden is that she is a winner,” Sayers said.
Hilborn’s success brought her to Montana State, where she played in 26 games, but only averaged 1.1 points and 1.3 rebounds over 10 minutes per contest.
Her best performance came Feb. 7 against Eastern Washington, where she scored five points and dished out four assists.
The Bobcats’ season finished with 16 wins and a loss to Portland State in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament. The following month, Hilborn and two other freshmen announced they were transferring.
“(Montana State) wasn’t the right fit anymore,” Hilborn said. “It wasn’t the right culture for me, I guess, and I just needed something different.”
That’s not to say Hilborn hasn’t gained experience from playing with a Division I program.
She said her experience improved her game and helped her gain maturity and control.
“It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there,” she said.
While Sayers missed out on signing her the first time around, Hilborn now joins a Saints team that returns 10 players from its Frontier Conference Tournament championship last season.
“Obviously we jumped on it as soon as we could,” Sayers said. “We just got her back on campus, visited with her and gave her an opportunity not only to compete in basketball but also track.”
The only question is where she would fit in. Carroll already has two point guards returning in Jaidyn Lyman and Sienna Swannack, but after Sayers sat down with the two about the opportunity to bring Hilborn in, there was nothing but excitement.
They would, however, need to figure out a game plan come the start of the season.
“We are going to have to get creative,” Sayers said. “We are going to have a ton of speed up front with a ton of athleticism. We just have to figure out a way to keep them on the floor together.”
Hilborn joins a recruiting class that includes Boise State transfer Emerald Toth and freshmen guard Kyle Olson from Three Forks, Rakiah Grende of Bigfork, Ally Cleverly of Butte, Kirsten Koehnke of Salem, Oregon, and Erica Nissan and Genesis Wilkinson from Spokane, Washington.
Carroll finished last season with a 26-8 overall record and a second round appearance in the NAIA National Tournament, but after a close loss to Oklahoma City, Sayers said this team has something to prove.
“I know coming into this year the expectations are raised even higher,” Sayers said. “I think we have a really great class and I think we have a lot of fire power. We are going to have to figure out how to keep them in sync and put the right people in the right spots in the right times. That’s going to be the biggest challenge.”