The 2019-20 women’s basketball season will feel like deja vu all over again for Lady Trapper Tayla Sayer, who recently signed her letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the College of Idaho.
The move will reunite Sayer with former Lady Trappers’ head coach Janis Beal, who recruited Sayer out of high school and coached her through her freshman season. After Beal left NWC following the 2017-18 season, she and Sayer kept in touch.
“She [Beal] had dropped hints last summer that she might recruit me, but I didn’t know if it was a real thing,” Sayer said. “We continued to talk throughout the year, and about a month ago, she called and asked me on a visit over our spring break. I just loved the place; the community and the students are all so supportive.”
The opportunity to play for Beal again was too good to pass up, as Sayer was an integral part of Beal’s final season as coach. NWC finished 25-8 that year and was a game away from a Region IX title game appearance; Sayer is looking forward to finding that kind of success again.
“Playing for coach Beal my first year was just a great experience,” Sayer said. “She taught me more about the game of basketball than I thought was possible, so I’m really excited to play for her again.”
The feeling is mutual, according to Beal. In her first season at the helm at C of I, Beal guided the Yotes to a 16-14 record — the team’s first winning season since 2013-14. The team peaked at the right time, making an improbable postseason run to the Cascade Conference semifinals before losing to top-seeded Eastern Oregon in double overtime.
Beal said Sayer will be a great piece to bring as the College of Idaho program continues to build its culture.
“I had the opportunity to coach Tayla [Sayer] for a year, and she was a huge part of our success,” Beal said, adding, “She works hard; she’s that kid that’s always going to do the little things that sometimes don’t even show up on the stat sheet. With recruiting, you don’t always know what you’re going to get. But with Tayla, I know exactly what I’m getting.”
Sayer averaged 30 minutes and 5.4 rebounds a game as a point guard during her recent season with the Lady Trappers.
NWC head coach Camden Levett called Sayer a quiet leader “who always did what she was asked without complaint and a smile on her face.”
“Tayla did a great job for us,” he said. “She struggled to shoot the ball a little bit, but still finished with decent numbers. She was second on our team in rebounding from her point guard spot — a lot of steals, a lot of defense. Just did everything well for us. I really enjoyed having her on our team. If I were a four-year coach still, I’d be recruiting her.”
Though her sophomore season at NWC wasn’t a successful one in terms of wins and losses, Sayer said the Lady Trappers always played hard and kept a positive attitude, something she’ll miss about her teammates. She’ll also miss the support of the community, which she said always came out to watch the team play, regardless of the team’s record.
“We just needed one game to get over the hump, and we just couldn’t quite get there,” she said. “We never gave up; that’s the thing I really enjoyed about this team is that we kept pushing, no matter what our struggles were. I made such great friends here; I’m going to miss them a lot.”
Sayer will also go down in Lady Trappers hoops history as having made the shot of the season. Last November, she sank a buzzer-beating 3-pointer off the glass that gave Northwest a 69-66 home win over Rocky Mountain JV. Levett said Tayla’s teammates began calling her the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) after that shot — a memory that still brings a smile to Sayer’s face all these months later.
“I just chucked it up, and no one was more surprised than me that it went in,” she said, laughing. “Everyone came running at me, and I was like, ‘This is awesome!’ But now my teammates call me the Yote instead of the GOAT.”
As for what she’s looking forward to the most at the College of Idaho, Sayer said the opportunity to play at a higher level with the Yotes, coupled with a quality education, are at the top of the list.
“C of I is known for its academics, which I’m really looking forward to,” she said. “And I want to see at this next level how the competition will be.”