Transfers help guide GCU women’s hoops move to D-I

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                </div>Trent May, the head coach for the Grand Canyon University women’s basketball program, knows what it’s going to take next season to make the big jump from Division II ball […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
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Trent May, the head coach for the Grand Canyon University women’s basketball program, knows what it’s going to take next season to make the big jump from Division II ball to the D-I level.

He’s going to need someone who’s ‘been there, done that’.

His program will join the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for the coming season, as the small Christian school in west Phoenix begins the four-year transition to being a fully-accredited D-I member.

The reasoning is pretty straight-forward and simple:  If you’re going somewhere you’ve never been before, it’s best to find someone who has already been there to help with the journey.  Like they say, it ain’t rocket science.

The sixth-year head coach thought he had a good start on the process in late May when the school announced the addition of Dominique Scott, a 6’0″ forward who played her freshman season at USC.  However, Scott is not among those on the 2013-14 roster.

But three weeks ago he picked up another D-I transfer in Courtney Hayes.  The 5’6″ guard arrives from Louisiana Tech, where she averaged 14 minutes a game and had three starts.  She finished the season with the second-most assists on the team and was fourth in steals.

Half of the six-player recruiting class are transfers with college experience.

The transfer who may have the most impact over the next few seasons is Madison Craig, a junior-college point guard who has a year of quality game experience already under her belt and three years of eligibility remaining.

The 5’8″ guard from Ohlone College in California was ranked second in the south division of the Coast Conference with 11 points and 4.5 assists per game.  In her senior year of high school she set a school record for total points and averaged nearly 16 a game.  And she’s a good one to have on the floor when the game is on the line late; she shot 80 percent from the free-throw stripe at Ohlone.

And Johnna Brown, a 6’0″ forward from Dixie State, rounds out the trio of transfers.  Brown redshirted her freshman season and then last season averaged 16.6 points and 11.6 rebounds for the Division II school in Utah.

The three incoming freshmen include August Touchard, a 5’6″ point guard from California; Astrea Reed, a 5’8″ guard from New Mexico; and Victoria “Tori” Morris, a 6’2″ center from Virginia.

That’s another sign that May is gearing up for Division I.  There are no local players in this recruiting class – and only two on the entire 14-player roster.  Normally, a good percentage of a GCU roster are locals, mostly kids who aren’t ready to play in a major-college program.  Up until now, GCU filled that void.

The two on this years’ roster from local high schools are Justine Johnson, a guard from Gilbert High School, and Jenna Pearson, a forward from Gilbert Christian High School.  Both will graduate after this season.

May, who is the program’s all-time winningest coach and a four-time PacWest Coach of the Year, also appears to have applied the ‘been there, done that’ logic to a recent coaching hire.  He added Erin Scholz to his coaching staff in May, putting a former D-I player and coach on the bench.

Scholz, who played at the University of Colorado, coached at Utah State, which is not only a Division I program, but when she was there the Aggies played in the WAC, so she’s also familiar with the conference the ‘Lopes are moving into.  (Utah State will begin playing in the Mountain West Conference this season.)

So it looks like May has his bases covered for the school’s inaugural season as a Division I program.  But there’s one thing he has no control over, and that’s the inability to experience post-season play at the next level – not because of a lack of success, but because of the restrictions on post-season play the NCAA puts on programs during their four years of transitioning to D-I.

And that will be a strange feeling for a program that has been consistently ranked nationally in recent years and been to the NCAA Tournament five times, reaching the Sweet Sixteen in 2011.

But that’s the price of admission to Division I.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)