The Boise State women’s basketball team has had a season for the ages, having won a school-record 25 games en route to a second Mountain West Tournament title in three years and a first-round matchup with UCLA in the NCAA Tournament (4:30 p.m. Saturday, ESPN2).
So who are these athletes? What makes them successful on the court? And what do they do away from basketball?
Senior Brooke Pahukoa (Lake Stevens, Wash.) makes game-winning jumpers. Fellow senior Yaiza Rodriguez (Spain) is an assist machine (190 in 32 games). Freshman Riley Lupfer (Spokane) scored 15 points in the fourth quarter of the MW Tournament semifinals against Colorado State.
And there is so much more to this group of Broncos. The Idaho Statesman met with players, before their departure to Los Angeles and an NCAA date in iconic Pauley Pavilion, and discovered some quirky facts, from family connections to Wilt Chamberlain to competitive handball players in the Olympics.
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There are 1 1/2 pairs of twins on the team: seniors Brittney and Brooke Pahukoa both play for the Broncos, while sophomore A’Shanti Coleman (San Francisco) plays for Boise State (redshirted this season after transferring from Arizona). She has a twin sister, A’Mari, who was on the roster at Ohlone College in California this season.
Marijke Vanderschaaf’s father, Ron Vanderschaaf, was drafted by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1987 NBA Draft out of Central Washington University. He was the final pick in the draft at No. 161 overall. Players at the top of that draft included Hall of Famers David Robinson, Scottie Pippen and Reggie Miller.
“I’ve seen his jersey and the little shorts that they wore,” said Vanderschaaf, a sophomore center from Sammamish, Wash. “It’s just cool having him with me on the whole journey of basketball and being able to relate to him like that.”
STARS IN WASHINGTON
Freshman guard Braydey Hodgins (Pasco, Wash.) has lofty expectations to live up to: her mother, Karen, graduated as Washington’s all-time leading scorer (currently fifth) with 1,745 career points and was the first women’s basketball player inducted into the UW Hall of Fame.
Karen played overseas, where her coach was Braydey’s father. Hodgins has two sisters: Hayley recently finished her career as Eastern Washington’s all-time leading scorer, while Delaney is a junior for the Eagles and will play against Texas State Thursday night in the Women’s Basketball Invitational.
“For me, it feels normal because I’ve grown up around basketball my whole life. I don’t really know any different,” Hodgins said. “We still had our differences, but when it came down to it, basketball was kind of in our blood.”
Brooke and Brittney Pahukoa’s father, Jeff, was an offensive lineman at Washington and played five years in the NFL for the Los Angeles Rams and Atlanta Falcons. Jeff’s brother, Shane, played at Washington and for the New Orleans Saints.
When she isn’t traveling for games, Riley Lupfer is an avid participant in hot yoga. Lupfer said she began going to classes over Christmas break and has made it a staple of her daily life. She occasionally does yoga stretches before games.
“I’m really into mindfulness and meditation, so yoga is really good for that. It’s also good for making you athletic and more flexible,” Lupfer said. “Not thinking is the best thing you can do. If you’re not thinking, you’re performing at your best.”
Sophomore Marta Hermida’s father, Angel Hermida, played for the Spanish team in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. “My mom didn’t want me to play handball. It’s so aggressive,” Hermida, of Spain, said. “It’s so cool. I love it.”
Freshman Leonie Edringer, who is from Germany, played competitive handball for about 12 years. “(Handball) is way more physical (than basketball),” Edringer said. “You get injured way more often.”
Sophomore guard Ellie Woerner’s grandfather, Jim Holwerda, played at Kansas State and helped lead the Wildcats to the Final Four in 1958 and the Elite Eight in 1959. Playing at rival Kansas at the time? None other than Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. Woerner’s mother Kris played at Colorado.
“He played against Wilt Chamberlain in the Final Four, so he kind of has some cool stories about that,” said Woerner, of Sammamish, Wash. “(Basketball is) a way that I’ve totally bonded with my mom and my grandpa. They were the first ones to put a basketball in my hands and taught me how to shoot.”
Boise State has three international players on its roster: Rodriguez (Spain), Hermida (Spain) and Edringer (Germany). Hermida played in the Spanish junior national team program, Rodriguez played on various Spanish national teams from 2009 to 2015 and Edringer was named the top scorer, rebounder and blocker in the German Third Division in 2014.
Freshman forward Emerald Toth is from Bozeman, Mont., and has been fly-fishing as long as she can remember. Her family owns a fly-fishing shop in Bozeman and are avid hikers. Part of the reason Toth chose Boise State is because of its proximity to outdoorsy destinations.
“I like how much (Boise) is centered around (nature),” Toth said. “Even campus, it might be a 10-minute walk across campus, but it’s a beautiful 10-minute walk.’’
Joyce Harrell’s father, Bruce, played linebacker at Washington under legendary coach Don James. Harrell was a multi-year team captain and helped take the Huskies to the 1978 Rose Bowl, where Washington defeated Michigan 27-20. One of Harrell’s teammates at Washington was Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon.
“Just having that growing up, being really competitive in sports. He knew a lot. In my recruiting, he was very helpful,” said Joyce, a sophomore forward from Seattle. “He knew the process.”
Harrell’s Cleveland High team in Seattle won 56 straight games and played in three consecutive state title games, winning the championship in her sophomore and junior seasons before coming in second as a senior. Junior forward Shalen Shaw led Reno High to a pair of state championships and a 106-14 record in four years. Freshman forward Jordan Woodvine led South Salem High (Ore.) to a pair of state titles. Toth won state titles in basketball and shot put at Bozeman High.
“I believe that winning is contagious if you have the mindset of a team that wants to win,” Woodvine said. “We all had successful (high school) seasons, and that’s why we do so well. Coach (Gordy Presnell) recruited great players.”
No. 13 Boise State at No. 4 UCLA
- What: NCAA Tournament first round
- When: 4:30 p.m. MT Saturday
- Where: Pauley Pavilion (13,800), Los Angeles
- Records: Boise State 25-7, UCLA 23-8
- Broadcast: ESPN2 (Cable One 134/1134, Dish 144, DirecTV 209)
- Radio: KTIK 1350 AM