Alyssa Charlston could easily detail her year-by-year improvement with Idaho’s women’s basketball team.
But Charlston puts more emphasis on what her three years in Moscow have meant to her beyond statistics.
“I’ve become a more mature person just by being here,” Charlston said.
Charlston, a junior who calls herself a “slasher post,” earned All-Western Athletic Conference first-team honors last season when she led the Vandals in scoring (14.5 ppg), rebounding (8.8 rpg) and field-goal percentage (48.6). She’s leading the Vandals again this year at 13.4 ppg.
She had games of 30 and 29 points last year and scored 29 this year against Eastern Washington.
Charlston, a graduate of Eastlake High in Sammamish, Wash., said the Vandals were the first Division I team to contact her. She selected UI because of its emphasis on developing athletes as good citizens.
Charlston has also developed as a player, jumping from just six starts and 6.2 ppg as a freshman to becoming one of the conference’s top players as a sophomore.
“I wasn’t making a crazy, huge impact as a freshman, but I tried to put in the effort and work hard,” Charlston said.
Her role as a junior is to mentor some of Idaho’s younger players. The Vandals have been starting two freshmen, Christina Salvatore and Connie Ballestero, and sophomore point guard Krissy Karr.
“My coach (Jon Newlee) trusts me to try to lead the younger girls,” Charlston said. … “I try to think back to when I was a freshman and I was homesick.”
Charlston entered this year with a 4.0 grade-point average while majoring in broadcasting and digital media.
People in Spokane may remember her father, Scott, who was an anchor for KREM-TV in the 1990s. He’s now Verizon Wireless’ public relations manager for the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.
Charlston said she’d like to get stronger and improve her midrange and 3-point shooting for her senior season.
“But the most important point is to continue to grow as a person,” she said.
Cardinals top poll: North Idaho (11-0) is ranked No. 1 among NJCAA Division I teams after being tabbed as No. 3 in the preseason poll.
“We feel honored to have the ranking, but we’ve had several discussions about it,” NIC coach Chris Carlson said. “The ranking doesn’t mean we’ll finish that way … so we try not to let it be a distraction.”
Sophomores Katie Buskey (12.0 ppg) and Kabri Emerson (11.0), and freshman Georgia Stirton (9.8) lead a balanced Cardinals offense that averages 71.4 ppg.
“We’re very pleased with the balance and depth,” Carlson said. “To do a scouting report on us would be difficult.”
NIC has seven returners from a team that was on every rival’s radar after the 2010-11 Cardinals won the national title.
The Cardinals begin Scenic West Athletic Conference play Thursday at Colorado Northwestern (11-4).
Salt Lake could be NIC’s toughest SWAC challenge. NIC owns wins over Wyoming schools Gillette and Northwest, both of which defeated Salt Lake.
Notes: Freshman guard KC McConnell (Clarkston) is coming off the bench to lead Whitworth (7-2) in scoring at 10.2 ppg. McConnell also leads the Northwest Conference in 3-point shooting at 53.8 percent (14 for 26). Whitworth (78.4 ppg) is outscoring its rivals by 22 ppg. … Sophomore forward Carli Rosenthal (Coeur d’Alene) has started every game for Saint Mary’s (6-2) and averages 6.1 ppg and 3.5 rpg. Another Gaels sophomore forward, Hayley Hendricksen (Lewis and Clark), is averaging 11.6 minutes off the bench. Saint Mary’s plays at Gonzaga on Feb. 14.