EWU coaches adjust to pandemic-style recruiting: Part three of a three-part series

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EWU head coach Wendy Schuller and her staff are retooling a young roster amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Drew Lawson, Sports Editor

EWU coaches hoping to lure top-notch athletes to play in Cheney have had to get used to a lot of FaceTime calls and virtual campus tours while on the recruitment path. 

That’s just one of the adjustments EWU recruiters have had to make amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, which has forced the cancelation of many regular recruitment activities. 

The Easterner spoke to coaches in football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball to find out how those staffs have handled this unusual recruitment situation. This story will be released in three parts. This is part three, which covers the women’s basketball team with insight from Bryce Currie, an assistant coach.

EWU women’s basketball has faced challenges this academic year beyond COVID-19 cancelations and recruiting limitations. Following a disappointing 4-26 season that ended unceremoniously with a first-round loss to Portland State in the Big Sky Tournament, four players transferred. These players included three starters: Bella Cravens (Nebraska), Jessica McDowell-White (San Francisco) and Brittany Klaman (Cal Baptist). Klaman left the team in December. 

In light of all the outgoing transfers, Currie said EWU’s recruiting strategy has been to find players that truly want to play in Cheney.

“We need to continue to look for people that are excited and proud to be at Eastern,” Currie said. “We’re pretty excited about the amount of kids coming in from the Washington area for next season.”

Mckenzie Ford for The Easterner
EWU freshman wing Kennedy Dickie attacks the basket.

EWU scored a top 2B high school player in Liberty’s Maisie Burnham, who signed pre-pandemic back in November. Burnham won the AP 2B Player of the Year in Washington. The Eagles are currently finalizing their roster, which should be announced in full in coming weeks. Currie said EWU is not just looking at high school recruits, but also junior college and community college transfers in an effort to bolster what is a very young team’s experience level. 

Amidst the adversity of a disappointing season and subsequent transfers, EWU joined the same boat as schools around the country with an inability to do in-person recruiting, whether that be campus tours or visits to athletes’ homes. 

Currie said not being able to interact personally with potential recruits has been a challenge.

“Sometimes sitting down in front of family in their own house goes a long way toward building that trust,” Currie said. “That was hard, not having that.”

Similarly to the men’s basketball team, the women’s basketball team would normally be getting back from AAU tournaments to scout possible prospects right now. Instead, all the scouting must be done by contacting those coaches and players virtually and watching game film and highlights. 

“I can’t tell you how many Hudl highlight videos I’ve watched,” Currie said. “It’s been crazy.”

EWU has been giving FaceTime tours of campus and keeping in contact with hopeful signings virtually. Right now, EWU is concentrating more intensively on the class of 2021.

Everyone in the NCAA, from Stanford University to NAIA schools are all facing these recruiting limitations. Currie said the pandemic could possibly have influenced the time frame players take to choose a school, due to the surrounding uncertainty. 

“It’s probably made a few kids think about deciding to come and commit to us sooner,” Currie said. “That’s been a little bit of a benefit … some kids are getting a little more serious about making a decision now as opposed to after summer, because everything is so up in the air.”

Recruiting series Part 1: Football.

Recruiting series Part 2: Men’s basketball.