New Northwest College women’s basketball coach Camden Levett is wrapping up his in-state recruiting tour, signing three Wyoming players to take the court for the Lady Trappers next season.
Forward Selena Cudney from Rock Springs, guard Tayler Groll from Evanston and Lovell’s own Mikkel McIntosh will be continuing their hardwood careers at Cabre Gym, and Levett said he’s excited at the level of talent the three bring to the program.
“I’m glad there were some Wyoming kids left, to be honest,” Levett said. “I watched the Montana v. Wyoming [All Star] game, and I think every kid on there was already signed to go somewhere. The three I signed didn’t play in that game, but all three will be playing in the North v. South All Stars game in Casper.”
Coming off a senior season at Rock Springs where she averaged 10.1 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, Cudney was named to the 4A All-Conference and All-State teams, and was ranked in the top five in the state in rebounding. A multi-sport athlete, Cudney was also the 4A state champion in the long jump.
“Selena [Cudney] to me was kind of a steal; she was a really late get,” Levett explained. “I think the only reason we got her late is she was contemplating track and basketball, she had a lot of offers for track. At the last minute, I think she just realized she missed basketball.”
From eighth grade on, Cudney believed her future in collegiate athletics would lie in track and field; she had offers from several schools to join their track programs following the state meet in May. But after talking to a former teammate who had gone on to college on a track scholarship, Cudney made the decision to focus on hoops.
“My friend told me she hated college track, and advised me against doing it,” Cudney said. “She’s very quick, quicker than I am, and I said, ‘Oh, great, if you hate it, I’m going to hate it too.’ So I decided to focus on basketball.”
Cudney made back-to-back visits to Gillette College and NWC during the last month, and Gillette seemed to have the inside track on signing the defensive-minded forward. But after meeting with Levett and going through a workout, Cudney liked what she saw at NWC.
“I put her through a workout and told her, ‘I’ve coached great athletes like you before, and they went on to do great things,’” Levett said. “I told her exactly how she would fit in my system and what she’d be asked to do, and I think she liked that. A week later, I was down in Rock Springs to sign her.”
Though Cudney can score, Levett was even more impressed with the young forward’s defense.
“I think she’s a great defender, and I think that goes back to her athleticism,” he said. “That was the first thing she told me in that workout: ‘Coach, I’m a defender.’ I told her she’s going to be a complete player here, but to find a kid that actually enjoys playing defense, likes to use her athleticism, that’s pretty special. We’ll develop her on the offensive end, and go from there.”
For Cudney, she’s anxious to get on campus and begin working toward her goal of a Region IX title.
“I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates and trying out a new position,” she said. “In high school, I played the four or the five, but in college, they want me to transition over to the three and be more of a shooter. I’m looking forward to that.”
A 5’7” guard from Evanston, Groll averaged 5.8 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists her senior season. Twice named an All-Conference selection for her play on the court, her accolades off of it are just as impressive: A 4.0 GPA and four-year Academic Award winner, NHS Honors, Health Science Honors and a recipient of the President’s Education Award. Attending NWC will be a family affair for Groll this year: older sister Drew is a member of the Lady Trappers soccer team.
“Tayler actually reached out to Coach [Janis] Beal and myself because she had a sister here and was interested in coming here,” Levett said. “She [Groll] sent me some game film, and she’s a very impressive student, so I watched her film. She was taking charges and making good baseline drives and passes. She sees the floor very well.”
Groll was familiar with NWC through her sister, and decided the environment was one she could easily adapt to. That, and an opportunity to play on a different team.
“That’s what I love about basketball, being on a team,” she said. “I’m excited for the competition of playing at the collegiate level.”
Groll had the opportunity to travel with an all-star team to Australia last year, calling the experience one of the highlights of her playing career. Playing down under, however, was not without a few subtle differences.
“The court is different,” she explained. “The 3-point line is about 3 feet further back. It was interesting.”
Groll will most likely play as an off-guard, according to Levett, and is a solid all-around player.
“We’re going to compete and play hard, and seeing her [Groll] take those charges, that’s the character I want right there,” he said. “She fits the mold of the team. We have to get her more comfortable shooting the three, but I think she’ll get there. She has a good work ethic. She has a very supportive family as well, and they’re going to be making a lot of trips to Powell. It’s an exciting time for the Grolls.”
It’s not often a two-year program is the beneficiary of a local high school’s Athlete of the Year, but come basketball season, the Lady Trappers will have the last two winners from Lovell High School taking the court in Shelby Wardell and incoming freshman Mikkel McIntosh.
An All-State selection last season, McIntosh averaged 11.3 points, 5.2 boards and three assists as a senior, leading the Lady Bulldogs to a state tournament appearance.
“We proved a bunch of people wrong last year, and that was a great feeling,” McIntosh said of Lovell’s run to the state tourney.
Active in the sport since she was “old enough to dribble a ball,” McIntosh credits growing up with cousins that loved the sport as her inspiration to play.
“They were always playing basketball, and I always wanted to be out there with them,” she said of her cousins. “They’re the ones that helped me develop the love and dedication towards basketball ever since then. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t go out and shoot some hoops or work on my free throws.”
Initially recruited by former coach Janis Beal, McIntosh — a standout at LHS on the volleyball court as well as track — had no qualms about staying to play for Levett, fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming a Lady Trapper.
“I’m a hometown girl, and I wanted to stay as close to home as possible,” she explained. “But I also grew up watching the Trappers, and it’s always been my dream to be called a Trapper.”
“I had her [McIntosh] and her family come up, I just wanted to meet them,” Levett said. “Mikkel went through a basketball workout and did really well. I actually offered her a spot right after the workout in front of the whole family, and they were all pretty excited. Her dad kind of pulled me aside after and told me this had been her dream since she was a kid, to play for Northwest College. I told him, ‘Hey, she’s earned it.’”
With a new head coach and just four players returning from last year’s team, it would be safe to call the upcoming season a rebuilding one for the Lady Trappers. That said, McIntosh would like to erase the negative connotation associated with a young, inexperienced team.
“I would like this year to not look like a rebuilding year,” she said. “I expect us to reach the goals that coach is asking us to reach, and come out with a championship in the end.”
Levett’s late hire put him at a definite disadvantage when it came to recruiting, especially when trying to find Wyoming talent not already committed elsewhere. With the signings of Cudney, Groll and McIntosh, the state will now be well-represented on the campus of NWC.
“I think it’s a must to have Wyoming kids on your roster,” he said. “There are some good basketball players in this group. I’m excited about the ones I do have; I wouldn’t trade them for anybody. That’s definitely a practice I plan on keeping up. You start locally and work your way out.”
With the recruiting process just about finished, Levett said he’s got room for one more player, though if one doesn’t materialize, he’s confident moving forward with who he has.
“I’ve got some great recruits, but I still have four returners that I like, and I know that they can play at a high level,” he said. “They won 25 games last year for a reason. I’m excited, really excited about this group.”