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Kirsten Tilleman has figured out her next move. It involves lots of school work and, after a hiatus, the beach and some basketball.

Tilleman, a Bozeman High graduate who left Oregon State University's women's basketball program in April, has decided to transfer to UC Santa Barbara in the fall of 2011 and attend graduate school. She also hopes to continue her basketball career at the California school.

Until then, however, she plans to finish her studies at OSU next year.

Tilleman was one of the most decorated athletes to ever come out of Bozeman, but what she will attempt over the next 12 months may be more impressive: earn her undergraduate degree in three years.

"Academics have always been first for me," said Tilleman, who recently returned home after completing her sophomore year at OSU. "That's why I'm staying at Oregon State next year. I'll just be focusing on my studies. It's an academic decision."

The Montana native led Oregon State in rebounding (7.5 per game) last season and averaged 8.1 points per game, starting all 31 games. But she was one of six players to leave the team either during or after a season in which the Beavers endured a 17-game losing streak and a last place finish in the Pac-10 Conference. Head coach LaVonda Wagner was fired on June 1.

Tilleman did not go into specifics on her decision to leave the program, saying only, "It was not for me anymore. I wanted to be somewhere where I could be happy."

Tilleman said she also made official visits to Montana State University and the University of Montana, but UCSB's proximity to the ocean and mountains as well as an academic program where students are required to do a group project instead of a thesis ultimately won out.

"All of them were wonderful," said Tilleman, a natural resources major who owns a 3.96 grade point average. "It was actually an incredibly hard decision to make. It came down to choosing something I've never experienced before."

Tilleman's career at Bozeman High was nothing short of outstanding. She was named state Gatorade Player of the Year in basketball and soccer; earned MVP honors for the Class AA

state basketball tournament in 2007, a season in which she averaged 14.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.8 steals, 2.9 assists and 2.8 blocks per game; was named all-state in track and field all four years, winning the state triple jump title twice and setting school records in the discus and shot put; was named both athlete and scholar-athlete of the year as a senior; was featured in Sports Illustrated's Faces in the Crowd section; and became one of just five student-athletes in the history of Bozeman/Gallatin County High to earn 12 varsity letters.

But the upcoming year, for the first time since she was little, Tilleman will not be participating in an organized sport.

"It's going to be cool to get a regular college life experience. I'm not going to be sitting on the couch and being lazy, I'm going to be very active," she said. "I'm going to be working on my basketball. It will be a little bit more flexible and definitely be shaped around my academics."

As she has in years past, Tilleman will take summer school classes before returning to OSU in the fall to undertake a rigorous academic schedule. Only this time, basketball won't be part of the regimen.

"I did a lot of thinking and a lot of reflecting," she said. "Oregon State is not a bad place. I've had good experiences there. I just think it was a good time to make a break from the basketball program."

Tim Dumas can be reached at and 582-2651.



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