The women’s basketball program at Grand Canyon University is taking on a whole new look. And, unfortunately, it doesn’t look like it’s going to benefit local athletes.
But it’s the cost of doing business at the next level. GCU is transitioning from NCAA Division II to D-I competition and joined the Western Athletic Conference this year.
In the past, the GCU program relied heavily on a deep pool of talent from around the state of Arizona to fill its rosters. And that local talent has enabled the Antelope program to succeed, and even thrive, at the D-II level.
During his seven years as head coach at the small Christian college in west Phoenix, Trent May has used local players to help lead the program to six post-season appearances, going as far as the Sweet 16 in 2011. That year, when the team set a new school record with 29 wins, seven of the 11 players on his roster had been recruited out of Arizona schools.
Two of those locals finished their careers at GCU as the school’s top all-time scorers. Samantha Murphy from Xavier Prep in Phoenix is No. 1 on the all-time list and Rosalyn Nelson from Deer Valley High School sits now at No. 2 in the record books. Murphy also led the nation that year in scoring by averaging 24.6 points per game.
Last season, May began preparing for the step up to D-I by adding some players that could provide immediate help. Half of the six-player 2013 recruiting class were transfers – all from out of state.
The phasing in of transfers worked out well, as the program posted its fourth 20-win season without skipping a beat.
There were just two players from Arizona high schools on that 2013-14 roster. Both of them just graduated.
And the incoming recruiting class? May lost nine players to graduation after last season, so this class is unusually large. Out of the group of 11, just one is from in-state.
Casey Rarrick is a 5’8″ guard from Saguaro High School in Scottsdale, a pure shooter who averaged 16 points a game during her senior year with the Sabercats. She joins a class that is made up of a mix of high-school graduates and transfers from eight different states – and one from Australia.
That’s the new look that will take the floor for the 2014-15 season.
The group includes two players from California, point guard Arin Perry and forward Leticia Infante, and two from Texas, 6’2″ center Eliza Martinez and Mikaehia Connor, who is a 5’9″ swing player that can contribute at the guard or forward position.
Rounding out the roster: Devyn Edwards (G) from Kansas, Zelor Massaquoi (G) from Maryland, Cheyenne Hedrington (F) from Illinois, Katelyn Lee (C) from Georgia, Courtney Hayes (G) from Las Vegas, and Jessica Gajewski (G) from Australia.
GCU has three more years of its transition period to become a fully-accredited D-I program. But May has the program off to a good start. After pre-season projections of an eighth-place finish in their first year in the WAC, the ‘Lopes ran up a 21-9 overall record last year and finished in third place in the conference.
It will be interesting to see next season what kind of success May will have after throwing his recruiting nets over a larger area of the country.
(Photo: GCU Athletics)