Photo: Mariah Willadsen (left) and Madi Austin (right)
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona women's basketball team is injecting huge drops of national championship pedigree for the 2014-15 season with the additions of Madi Austin and Mariah Willadsen on Wednesday. Austin and Willadsen were two of the top-three scorers on the Mesa Community College squad that claimed the NJCAA Division II National Championship last month following a 28-5 season, a school record for victories. Both players will be juniors in the fall.
"What a day; with the addition of Mariah and Madi, we have upped our level of talent, experience, leadership, work ethic and toughness," said head coach Sue Darling. "They are program-changers who hail from one of the top junior college programs in the nation. Both Madi and Mariah were outstanding leaders on Mesa's national championship team and we are ecstatic that they are joining our Lumberjack family."
Austin was the Thunderbirds' second-leading scorer this season with 14.0 points per game in addition to a team-best 6.9 rebounds per game. The Saginaw, Mich. native graduated from Scottsdale's Horizon High School before playing the last two seasons at Mesa CC. Austin, a 6-foot forward, proved to be an outside threat shooting 32 percent from beyond the arc and was extremely efficient from the free-throw line at a team-best 83.1 percent clip. She also led the Thunderbirds with 23 blocks. She was named an NJCAA Division II Second Team All-American and also earned Arizona Community College Athletic Conference (ACCAC) and All-Region I (Division II) first team honors. In Mesa's national championship win over Highland Community College, Austin recorded 25 points and eight rebounds and was named to the All-Tournament team.
"Madi is a versatile forward who is as good from behind the three-point arc as she is with her back to the basket," Darling said. "She is relentless on the boards and is a very strong defender."
Willadsen is a 5-foot-8 guard out of Mesa, Ariz. who played her high school ball at Red Mountain High School. She ranked just behind Austin on the Thunderbirds with 13.0 points per game and also averaged 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 steals. She shot 45.5 percent from the field and 78.8 percent from the free-throw line while dishing out 47 assists – tied for fourth-most on the team – and recording 37 steals – third-most on the team. Willadsen also played a critical role in Mesa's championship-sealing victory as she recorded a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds including a perfect 6-for-6 performance from the charity stripe. Her list of accolades include ACCAC second team and All-Region I (Division II) first team honors.
"Mariah is a do-it-all guard with a deadly jump shot and knack for rebounding," Darling said. "For as good as she is on the offensive end of the floor, she's an even better defender."
Austin and Willadsen join Tori Lloyd (Dobson High School/Mesa, Ariz.), who signed her National Letter of Intent in November, as fresh Lumberjacks in what is shaping up as an impressive incoming class for the 2014-15 season.