NAU Women's Basketball

Northern Arizona head coach Loree Payne instructs her team at a summer practice in Rolle Activity Center.

With just three players who played significant minutes for the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks returning this season, the women’s basketball team will host a free open scrimmage in Rolle Activity Center Tuesday at 6 p.m., giving the public a chance to familiarize itself with the new roster.

“Honestly, we wanted to give the community and our fans an opportunity to come check things out and just get a feel for what this is going to look like,” said first-year head coach Loree Payne. “We will be about 16 practices in when that happens, so we are building. We won’t be there yet, but it will be exciting just to get a chance to showcase these guys, our style of play and the environment that we play in.”

Seniors Olivia Lucero and Kenna McDavis, as well as junior Kaleigh Paplow, return to lead a team of mostly freshmen and transfers in Payne’s first year.

Peyton Carroll, Chelena Betoney and Brianna Lehew also return, after seeing scant playing time or redshirting, to the 16-woman roster that includes 10 newcomers. While transfers Jacey Bailey, Caitlin Malvar and Desirae Gonzalez will sit out the regular season due to the NCAA’s transfer rules, the three are permitted to play in the scrimmage.

With four 10-minute quarters scheduled, Payne and her staff will see a few variations of the team.

“We will have probably 13 or 14 people healthy, so we will probably do a split of half the team and half the team, and then we will get the team together and go against our male practice squad,” Payne said. “You will get a chance to see what our players look like that are playing this year, what our future looks like with some of our transfers and just what our team looks like once we bring it all together.”

Running a fast-paced offense at Division III Puget Sound, Payne’s offense averaged 79.0 points per game, ranking No. 6 in D-III, and hit 43.2 percent of its shots, 25th in the nation. With Lucero averaging 14.8 points per game, ninth in the Big Sky Conference, Payne said she hopes the team’s leading scorer will be able to play off the ball at times this season.

“Different combinations of people give us a lot of different opportunities,” Payne said. “With Liv, she is really a wing player but one of the freshmen will be able to kind of take that point guard spot a little bit, take a little bit of the pressure off of her, give her some reps at that wing spot.

“With so many young kids, one practice one freshman will stand out, the next practice another one will,” Payne added. “We are really trying to look for that consistency of a couple starting to separate themselves, really starting to take those roles and really want to keep that consistency in those roles.”

An autograph session will follow the conclusion of the scrimmage, with the Lumberjacks returning to Rolle Activity Center on Nov. 10 to open the regular season against UC Santa Barbara at 6:30 p.m.

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Cody Bashore serves as the beat writer for Northern Arizona University basketball and football in addition to covering high school sports around Flagstaff for the Arizona Daily Sun.

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