Cheney, Wash. – Fresh off the heels of one of the most successful seasons in program history, Eastern Washington University Women's Basketball head coach Wendy Schuller has secured commitments from four student-athletes for the 2015-16 season as announced Monday, June 15.
Ashli Payne (Bremerton, Wash./Olympic HS/Umpqua CC) will join the Eagles after two seasons at Umpqua Community College while Violet Kapri Morrow (Tacoma, Wash./Wilson HS), Desiree Harding (Fresno, Calif./Fresno HS) and Baylee Rexing (Suwanne, Ga./North Gwinnett HS) will head to Cheney following impressive prep careers.
"I'm really excited about this class," said Schuller. "They improve us athletically, and they are some kids who are tough and are really hungry to get better. Ashli and Violet Kapri are excited about becoming Eagles and joining a program that's in a really good place and continuing to get better. They're players who can help take us to that next level and really complement the players that we have right now."
A 6-0 forward, Payne comes to Eastern Washington on the heels of an extraordinary two-year career at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. As a sophomore, she averaged 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game, leading her team to a 27-5 record, an NWAACC Southern Region title and a third-place finish at the NWAACC Tournament. She concludes her career as Umpqua's fifth-leading scorer with 1,127 career points and its second-leading rebounder with 635 boards.
Payne was a member of the 2015 WBCA Junior/Community College Coaches' All-America Team and was the NWAACC's Southern Region MVP as a freshman and sophomore. She was also tabbed to the NWAACC's Southern Region All-Defensive Team following the 2014-15 season.
Payne graduated from Olympic High School in June of 2013, earning Olympic League MVP honors while leading the league in scoring. She was also named Player of the Year by the Kitsap Sun as a senior.
"Ashli is someone we're really excited about," Schuller said. "She comes from a very good program at Umpqua playing for Dave Stricklin, who does a fabulous job. She's been taught how to play, and she's a great rebounder who knows how to score. She's going to be a lot of fun to work with because she does some really good things with the basketball and really wants to get better and will do anything she can to help take us to the next level. She's very hungry, just like we are, to win a Big Sky championship."
A 5-8 guard, Morrow will join the Eagles after a stellar career at Wilson High School in Tacoma, Wash. She finished her career with 1,027 points and 711 rebounds, averaging 16.6 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.4 steals per game as a senior. She led her team to three consecutive Washington 3A State Tournament appearances, highlighted by a third-place finish in her sophomore season.
Morrow is a three-time First Team All-Narrows League selection, helping her team win conference titles in each of those seasons. She earned a spot at the 2015 Washington State Girls Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Game as a senior, and was a member of the 3A all-state team along with being named First Team All-Area by the Tacoma News Tribune.
"Violet Kapri is a player who had a great senior year and has gotten better and better every week it seems like throughout this past year, culminating in the all-star game when she had a big performance against some really good players," noted Schuller. "She's a strong, physical body but is fast and is a great rebounder. She can guard, and shoots the three well. She brings a lot to the table, and we're very excited about her."
Harding, who goes by Dez, comes to Cheney on the heels of a stellar four-year career at Fresno High School in Fresno, Calif. The 5-7 guard averaged 19.8 points per game as a senior, leading the Warriors to the Central Interscholastic Federation D3 Valley championship game. The 2015 Fresno Bee Player of the Year and three-time North Yosemite League Player of the Year, Harding led an impressive turnaround at Fresno High School, winning 74 games in her career after the program had won just 21 games in the four seasons prior to her arrival.
"Desiree had a phenomenal senior year and really took her stock up a notch," said Schuller. "We love her quickness, and she shoots the ball well. She's somebody that really knows how to play the game, and I'm excited to have her in the program. I went to college in Fresno, so it's fun to get a player from that area."
A 5-3 guard, Rexing graduated from North Gwinnett High School in Suwanee, Georgia, following the 2013-14 academic year. She suffered an ACL tear early into her senior season, forcing her to sit out the year. She has spent the past year rehabbing in advance of her return to basketball.
As a junior, Rexing led the Bulldogs to their first Georgia State title game appearance in school history and a No. 3 national ranking. She was twice named Defensive Player of the Year for North Gwinnett HS and was a third-team all-county pick as a sophomore after helping her team reach the semifinals of the Georgia State Championship for the first time.
"Baylee reminds me a lot of Lexie Nelson in terms of being a gym rat who works extremely hard, has a great fitness level and just loves being around the game," Schuller said. "She has a high basketball IQ and she's going to be able to come in as a freshman and contribute and help us get to the places that we're trying to reach."
Payne, Morrow, Harding and Rexing will join the Eagles' three early signees, adding depth and talent to the Eagles' squad following a 21-win season.
"These kids are all winners and were huge parts of their teams' success," said Schuller. "They have a burning desire to win and will do whatever they have to preparation-wise to win. Even better than that is that they're unselfish people who want to do whatever they need to do to help their team win. They don't feel like they need to do it all for us to win; they just know how to assume whatever role is necessary. This is class of players who know how to win and come from some great coaching.
"We're excited for the next week to get here and have these young ladies come on campus and get acclimated with our returning players. It should be a lot of fun."