Rosemount girls' basketball player Taylor Janssen, a junior, announced her verbal commitment to play Division I basketball for Montana State University in the Big Sky Conference on March 23. Janssen was a standout player for the Irish girls' basketball player the past two seasons and helped lead her team to the section championship game this winter against Eastview.

When talking about her decision to verbally commit to the Bobcats, Janssen said it was all about the environment and feel of the team.

"Their culture and the team-family atmosphere that they have there," she said about why she chose Montana State. "Everyone really seemed like they were having a good time while being there, while other schools that I went to it didn't seem like everyone enjoyed being there as much as I thought they should. So it was kind of just the culture they had there that made everyone want to be there and have fun while they're getting the job done.

Janssen said she visited Montana State University last fall and kept in touch with the school throughout the winter. She made her final decision a couple weeks ago.

Janssen's recruitment process really took off in the summer before her junior year while playing with the Minnesota Fury's second team - a Minnesota club basketball organization - starting with hearing from some local Division II teams. However, she said she then started hearing from Division I programs like Montana State, Portland State, Valparaiso, University of Pennsylvania and Boston University.

Rosemount girls' basketball head coach Chris Orr said he's received a steady flow of calls and emails about Janssen since then.

"Last summer it really picked up and it's been a steady stream this whole season," he said. "We'd play teams and there would be coaches watching some of our other players or players on the other team and I'd phone calls and emails asking 'who's 42' and stuff and I kind of just laughed and chuckled at that, I'm like 'you're a little late to the game' with that. I know Montana State really jumped on her right away."

Janssen said academics also played a critical role in where she chose to go.

"Right now I'm thinking about (studying) either criminal justice or exercise science, so two completely different things, but both sound interesting," she said. "I talked with an academic advisor, they have so many options there school-wise that if one of those don't work out, there would be plenty of options for me to choose from. So that played a big role in where I was thinking of going."

Growing as a player

Janssen has played at the varsity and junior varsity levels since her freshman year. Orr said she cracked the varsity lineup toward the end of her freshman season - an impressive feat given that was a senior dominated team - and has started the past two winters. Since that freshman season, Orr said she has improved immensely.

"Even in her younger days, she wasn't a great shooter, she's obviously improved a ton, but you could tell it was there and it just took time and repetition to build that confidence up," he said. "I would say her ball handling has improved immensely, she can bring the ball up the court for us, she has no problem getting a rebound and pushing in transition. That and her defense, one of the things people asked right away in the recruiting process was can she defend on the outside and yeah, she can, her length helps her, but she's also pretty athletic."

Janssen said her strengths lie on the perimeter, though she is certainly just as capable in the post as well.

"I feel like I'm pretty good at 3-point shooting but I also feel like I don't settle just for threes," she said. "Going left I can take people off the dribble, especially being left-handed, so I feel like that's a strong aspect of my game."

She also credits her time with the Minnesota Fury with helping her development.

"When I got put on the Fury team last year, it really helped. They changed the pace, they played a lot faster because we had guards that were able to push the ball," Janssen said. "So just running the floor and being able to look at different options in transition at a faster speed, that really helped, and then just playing at a faster speed and looking not just for my shot on the outside or posting up on the inside, but also driving and pull-up jumpers in the mid-range and stuff like that, I think that's really helped my game go to the next level."

Both Janssen and Orr said that the Montana State coaching staff sees her playing the 3 or the 4 at the next level (small forward or power forward).

"They're graduating a lot of 3-4-5s, taller posts, so I'd be primarily playing a 3-4 and then they'd have me play both on the inside and outside, and I feel more comfortable not being constrained and being able to play all over the court rather than just being strictly a post or strictly a perimeter player," she said.

"At the next level, she's a 3-4, a stretch four out on the perimeter, for the most part obviously because of her shooting and her length," Orr said. "At the Division I level she's a 3-4, the big question right away with her was can she handle the ball and can she defend on the perimeter because that's where college coaches see her and she's proven that she can do that."

Janssen still has over a year before she heads to Montana and will continue to work on improving and adding to her game.

"One thing we've talked about with her, two things mainly, shooting off the dribble and she can handle it on the perimeter, now it's getting comfortable going by someone on the perimeter to score," Orr said. "Being more of a threat taking it to the hoop, especially going right hand because obviously she's left-handed."

Janssen added that her and some other teammates will also be working on their ball-handling as they expect that next season their opponents will be pressing and pressuring the point guard more. That will allow her and others to better help break the press, bring the ball up the court and initiate the offense.

Janssen was voted South Suburban All-Conference this past season, co-team MVP, the team's "Shooting Star" and will be captain next winter. She averaged 14.2 points per game during the regular season in which the Irish went 17-9 - including winning their last 10 games before the section final - and helped guide Rosemount to the Section 3AAAA championship game against Eastview in which they lost 42-41. Looking ahead to next season, Janssen said she has one specific goal in mind for the Irish outside of the usual going to state.

"I think a big goal for us coming up this season is to win our conference. The last couple years Eastview has been a powerhouse in our conference, so they've been really tough competition," she said. "But last year and this year they continued to graduate some of their best players, I think with them stepping down and with such close games we've played with everyone in our conference as a whole, I think a big goal for us would be to win the conference."