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Dismissed Rocky Mountain College women's basketball players welcomed back

School identifies "path to bring the team back together"
Wes Keller RMC.png
Posted at 8:40 PM, Feb 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-26 00:44:28-05

BILLINGS -- Six players dismissed Monday from the Rocky Mountain College women's basketball team have been reinstated, according to an announcement from school president Dr. Bob Wilmouth late Thursday afternoon.

“I had an opportunity to meet yesterday (Wednesday) with six players from our women’s basketball team that sat out of team activities in support of Coach Wes Keller, along with their parents," Wilmouth said. "They are a wonderful group of students and I am proud of their passion and ability to articulate their position.

"We had a productive conversation and were able to discuss their concerns and hopefully clarify any misunderstandings. Through this conversation, along with Coach Keller and our athletics administration, we have identified a path to bring the team back together, allow them to heal, and ultimately find success."

MTN Sports reported the dismissals earlier this week and the reinstatement of Keller last Thursday. Rocky's top five scoring leaders were among the dismissed players, including Kloie Thatcher, Shauna Bribiescas, MacKenzie Dethman, Izzy Spruit, Adonica Baca-Martinez, Katelyn Ostrowski and N'Dea Flye.

Thatcher's sister Hattie posted a series of messages on social media Monday night criticizing the school's administration.

"Today, Kloie and her teammates who stood up for their coach, are no longer a part of the Rocky women's basketball team, a decision made by upper administration at Rocky Mountain College," Thatcher posted to Twitter.

According to Thatcher's father, Chunky, the dismissed players were barred from using team facilities, attending practices or games or receiving COVID-19 tests. Their scholarships were to be honored through the remainder of the semester. At the season's conclusion, Rocky's administration would render a decision to the dismissed players on "what their standing is," according to Chunky, who also noted that the school's decision to boot the players from the team was done without giving them a hearing.

Multiple messages left for Keller went un-returned.

"I’d like to reiterate that the Rocky Mountain College administration, and I as President, fully stand behind Coach Keller," Wilmouth continued in Thursday's release. "As was formerly reported, concerns against Coach Keller were brought to our attention regarding his coaching style. It is the responsibility of Rocky Mountain College to thoroughly assess any credible concerns regarding student well-being.

"While these concerns were evaluated, out of an abundance of caution, Coach Keller was placed on paid administrative leave. Coach Keller received no disciplinary actions as a result of these concerns, during or after his administrative leave. After concluding a comprehensive review of the women’s basketball program, Coach Keller resumed his duties with the full support of the Rocky Mountain College administration.”

Keller, in his seventh season leading Rocky's women, had been absent from the bench since the team forfeited a road doubleheader against Montana Western on Feb. 6-7. Rocky (1-11, 1-9) plays at Montana Western in its Frontier Conference tournament opener on Thursday.

In the meantime, Wilmouth is encouraging stronger campus-wide communication.

"As the President of the institution I am insisting that an emphasis is placed on improving communication between students, coaches and administration," he said.