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Gonzaga’s Georgia Stirton: ‘It’s funny how everything has fallen into place so perfectly’

Gonzaga's Georgia Stirton, left, takes the layup while getting hacked by San Francisco's Michaela Rakova on Dec. 31, 2015. Stirton recalls that “big school” basketball was a shock because of how fast the players were. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga's Georgia Stirton, left, takes the layup while getting hacked by San Francisco's Michaela Rakova on Dec. 31, 2015. Stirton recalls that “big school” basketball was a shock because of how fast the players were. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Georgia Stirton is still struck by the serendipity of it all.

All her hard work and planning notwithstanding, it took a series of random events to send Stirton from Melbourne to North Idaho College and eventually to Gonzaga University.

Fresh out of high school in Melbourne, she didn’t have a plan until a club coach suggested she play in America. Lacking connections, she took a what-the-heck approach and sent emails to 200 American schools.

North Idaho College was the first to respond, and the Cardinals were rewarded when Stirton accepted their scholarship offer.

At first, Stirton wasn’t sure. “I felt like an outsider, trying to prove that I was good enough.” Stirton said. “It’s amazing how much you can do when you’re pushed out of your comfort zone.”

Undaunted by the culture shock and snow on her doorstep, the 5-foot-8 Stirton was a second-team junior college All-American after leading NIC to a 28-5 record and a spot in the nationals.

Gonzaga was watching. Needing an experienced point guard, new coach Lisa Fortier offered a two-year ride and Stirton accepted.

Big-school ball was a “shock” for Stirton. “I didn’t have anybody to watch and learn from – it wasn’t just the crowds, but the adjustment to how fast the girls were.”

After a rough beginning, Stirton proved herself again, starting all 34 games and helping the Bulldogs to their seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance. This year, she’s started all 25 contests while averaging 6.7 points and 2.5 assists.

The next adventure will be close to home. Stirton hopes to play professionally. She also plans to use her GU degree in special education.

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