A year ago, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team faced transfer rule woes.
A large chunk of the team was comprised of new faces set to play under a new coaching staff, but most of the roster had to wait its turn to get between the lines. With the restrictions lifted, the Lumberjacks have been excited about tapping into the depth it lacked in the 2017-18 season.
Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne, now in her second year, knew where to go to find talent as she started rebuilding the team. She tapped into her roots, bringing in players from the Northwest part of the country where she played and coached.
Eight of the 15 players on this year's roster come from the Northwest, with five stemming from Oregon, two from Washington and another from British Columbia. Several of them were recruited by Payne, who was head coach at Puget Sound in Washington state after spending 2007-10 as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at her alma matter, Washington. Payne also spent time as an assistant at Portland and Northwest Nazarene in Idaho.
“Obviously we have really strong ties to the Pacific Northwest," said Payne, who has brought in the types of players she thinks will fit her high-tempo offensive schemes. "You look at our roster and it’s pretty heavy-handed there. It’s something we talked about, it’s somewhere where we are really connected, and so we are going to recruit from where the best players are."
With the success she received from players from the area that she didn't recruit, it made sense to keep an eye on what was available from those states.
Khiarica Rasheed and Lauren Orndoff, both Oregon products Payne inherited, enter their sophomore years having gained a lot of experience last season. While adjusting to Payne's system as freshmen, the two averaged more than 20 minutes per game.
Last season, Rasheed, a forward, played in all 30 games, averaged the fourth-most points per game on the team at 7.4 and fourth-most rebounds per game at 5.3. Orndoff, a guard, played in all but two games, and was just behind Rasheed in scoring at 5.7 points per game to go with 42 total assists, which was third on the team along with Kenna McDavis, who graduated.
“I think you can see their growth from the experiences that they had and just their mental shift of they are no longer freshman," Payne said last week of last year's young players such as Rasheed and Orndoff. "So I think they are coming in with a lot more confidence and a lot more sense of pride with their product on the floor and what they provide the team.”
PAST AND PRESENT
The team is excited to have 5-9 redshirt sophomore guard Caitlin Malvar available after she sat out last season due to transfer rules. Malvar had played under Payne for a year at Puget Sound, where she had a role in helping the team win its first-ever outright conference championship in school history while averaging 7.7 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in her lone season there.
Just like Malvar, many of the players from the Northwest are sophomores, with Nina Radford being the only player from the area (Oregon) ineligible this season as a transfer.
Freshmen Regan Schenck and Morgan Gary, and sophomore Jacey Bailey are all set to join the team and earn a place on the court.
Payne, who led the Lumberjacks to a 7-23 season in her first year, saw her young team last season beat an NCAA Tournament team in Boise State, take down Arizona for the first time since 1988 and eclipse 80 points in seven games compared to nine total over the three seasons before her arrival.
Part of those success stories was Peyton Carroll from Oregon, a third-year Lumberjack set to play her junior year. Last year, the forward played in all 30 games, averaged 5.3 points per game and 3.3 boards per game.
The contributers from a year ago have helped Payne this summer get the newcomers ready for the upcoming season.
“It kind of just gets them acclimated before the rest of the student body gets here and eases them into the basketball workouts and the intensity that exists at the college level,” Payne said of the summer work sessions.
Payne's coaching staff is also connected to the Northwest.
Assistant coach Kellee Barney spent time as an assistant at Oregon State, Arizona and Washington State. Assistant Brandon Huntley is going on eight years spent with Payne. Advit Raghavan, a four-year letterwinner at the University of Puget Sound from 2013-17, joined the Lumberjacks staff as a graduate assistant in 2017.
"For us, getting that familiarity with the Northwest -- and Kaitlyn (Carns) had year with me and coach Huntley in our system at Puget Sound -- that is all something that is pivotal from the first year,” Payne said.