Among new Eastern Washington women’s basketball coach Joddie Gleason’s primary goals in revamping the struggling program is to pluck the best available talent from the tradition-heavy Greater Spokane League.
Gleason, who replaced 20-year Eagles coach Wendy Schuller following a third consecutive losing season, is quickly following through.
But former Lewis and Clark High guard and 2018 GSL MVP Jacinta Buckley, who recently signed with EWU, first tried her hand in the Mountain West Conference.
Buckley played two seasons at UNLV, averaging 11 minutes per game for the Running Rebels, who placed second in the MWC last season.
Two years after helping the Tigers reach the State 4A championship game, Buckley returns to the Spokane area and will be reunited with former LC teammate and incoming freshman Andie Zylak, a Schuller recruit.
“I was missing home-cooked meals and being near my family,” Buckley said.
“I wanted to try something different (in Las Vegas), but it turns out I like grass and mountains more than the desert.”
Gleason, the former associate head coach at Seattle University, hoped to recruit Buckley to the Redhawks in March when she initially entered the NCAA transfer portal.
Buckley committed to Gleason when she was named head coach at EWU in May.
“She is going to help us turn the program around and make an immediate impact,” Gleason said. “Her experience in the Mountain West will help her.”
Zylak, who recently concluded her coronavirus-altered senior prep season, is ecstatic about the addition of Buckley, who brings versatility at 6-foot-1.
“I am so excited. My parents were so happy, because everyone loves Jacinta,” Zylak said. “She will have a big role here.”
The Eagles need all the experience they can get and hope to sign two more transfers this summer.
EWU lost the bulk of its production to the transfer portal, including starters and regular double-digit scorers Maisie Burnham (Portland), Kennedy Dickie (San Francisco), Grace Kirsher (Western Colorado) and Jenna Dick (Tarleton State).
The Eagles return one full-time starter in guard Aaliyah Alexander, who averaged 10.7 points, 4.4 rebounds and totaled a team-high 64 assists as a freshman.
Zylak, an All-GSL talent and three-year starter, remained committed to EWU after the coaching change.
“Not for one moment was I thinking about going to another school,” said Zylak, a 5-7 guard. “The coaching change was scary, but good. A clean slate.”
Buckley is glad her friend stayed home. They were winners at LC and hope to have similar success at EWU, which has one conference title (2010) and one NCAA Tournament appearance (1987) in program history.
“(Andie and I) want to bring that same winning tradition to EWU that we had in high school,” Buckley said.
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