New coaching staff + Amy Patton = NAU hoops hopes

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                </div>The new women’s basketball coach at Northern Arizona University, Sue Darling, often refers to the program’s potential of becoming the “crown jewel of Arizona.” Right now, after a number of […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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The new women’s basketball coach at Northern Arizona University, Sue Darling, often refers to the program’s potential of becoming the “crown jewel of Arizona.”

Right now, after a number of down years for women’s basketball that included a 9-20 record last season, the NAU program might better be described as a ‘gem in the rough’.  The women’s team hasn’t won more than 11 games in a season since 2006/2007 and most home games last season were drawing just a couple hundred enduring fans.

And now Darling, who left her position as assistant coach at the University of Arizona last month to take on the rebuilding project in Flagstaff, has added a staff to help her polish the old rock and bring it back to shining like it did almost a decade ago when her predecessor, Laurie Kelly, posted a couple of 20-win seasons.

Darling just announced the hire of three assistant coaches, all with playing experience at Division I colleges and two with coaching experience at multiple stops in their young careers.

Jamie Shadian played at the University of San Francisco, where she was the all-time assist leader for the Dons, and joins the NAU staff after a coaching stop at New Mexico State, where she helped pull in a recruiting class that was ranked 17th in the country.  Before that, she put in two years as an assistant at Tennessee State.

Robyne Bostick got her playing experience at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and her coaching chops at Princeton, Vanderbilt, James Madison – and three years at the Air Force Academy where she was an assistant on Darling’s staff there.

Karlie Burris is a local product, having played her high school ball at Salpointe Catholic in Tucson and then going on to become a four-year letter winner at the University of Portland.   She spent the last two years working as a video coordinator and graduate assistant at Seattle University, where former UofA head coach, Joan Bonvicini, is now serving as head coach.

The trio has already begun focusing on the recruiting effort, but they will have Amy Patton on the floor for one more year to help them out until the new talent begin arriving.

Patton is sort of like the ‘crown jewel’ within the program.

The prolific 5’10”  guard from McClintock High School in Tempe will finish out an impressive career at NAU this season that began with Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year her first season and has remained steady throughout her time as a Lumberjack, earning All-Big Sky second-team honors every year.

She broke a 25-year-old school record for single-season scoring that first season, pouring in 539 points in her debut, and her career average of 16.5 ppg is second-best in team history.

Last season, Patton finished fifth in conference scoring with 14.6 points a game, while also contributing 6.5 rebounds and 2.6 assists as one of only three Jacks to play every game during the 2011-12 season.

It will take her just 280 points during her senior campaign to become the NAU all-time leading scorer.

Her presence on the floor should help the transition year, but the new coaching staff needs to re-stock the shelves with new talent quickly.   And Darling appears confident she has the right mix of personnel to be able to do that.

“We are a diverse group, but we have many common threads,” she said when announcing the new hires.  “Among them, the understanding and motivation of what it takes to move a program from good to great.

“With the addition of each of these gifted women, NAU women’s basketball has taken a major step toward becoming the crown jewel of Arizona.”

There she goes again.

(Photo: NAU Athletics)