FARGO — As signing days go, Wednesday was more about communication via the phone or video with Zoom or FaceTime. Whatever the connection, North Dakota State landed a women’s basketball transfer who was highly recruited out of high school.
The second time around for Kadie Deaton was different then the first in a lot of respects. Most notably a country-wide shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I was not expecting 2020 to be like this,” Deaton said.
Wednesday was the first day student-athletes could sign a letter of intent for the 2020-21 season after the NCAA revised the signing period to April 15-Aug. 1 for all sports. The 5-foot-11 Deaton, a guard who spent one semester at Northern Colorado, and 6-2 junior college transfer Britney Epperson from Iowa Western were the only two to sign with NDSU in any sport on Wednesday.
For Deaton, at least she was able to make a campus visit to NDSU before the shutdown.
“It sucks for everyone else who has to go through transferring and not to be able to go through visits,” she said. “But everything will work out and I’m thankful it worked out for me.”
It worked out at NDSU thanks to Collins having recruited her two years ago when he was an assistant at Kansas.
“She brings an element of athleticism and competitiveness to our team, which we need an influx of,” he said. “She’s a high-level player.”
Deaton was ranked the 58th-best guard and 183rd overall player by ESPN coming out of high school. She averaged 19.8 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists for Wausau West. She was also an all-conference soccer player.
“Just knowing coach Jory, speaking with him before and the great relationship we had in the past, unfortunately it didn’t work out at Kansas but he was a person I could see myself playing for,” Deaton said. “I know North Dakota State, they’ve been known for winning but have had a rough time in the past, so I’m happy what he’s done and how he’s improved the program.”
Deaton left UNC after the first semester, but not before a game-winning shot with two seconds remaining to defeat Wyoming. She played in 12 games, starting six, averaging 8.6 points and 3.2 rebounds.
She’ll have three years of eligibility and will most likely have to sit out next season unless the NCAA approves a one-time transfer rule that is expected to be up for a vote in May.
“Initially we’re saying she’ll have to sit out this year, but hope for the best with the waiver process,” Collins said.
Deaton said she “didn’t want to get my hopes up” on the potential one-time waiver but admitted sitting out the second half of the season was hard.
“I realized how much I miss being part of an awesome team, playing competitively and going to the playoffs,” she said.
Epperson, from Melbourne, Australia, moved to Indiana in her junior year of high school. She missed 13 games last season because of injury and averaged 4.0 points and 4.3 rebounds in 16 games. She had five games of multiple blocked shots. She ranked 30th in Division I JC her freshman year with 49 blocked shots.
High-level basketball is in her family. Her father, Ken Epperson, played professionally in Australia after a standout career at the University of Toledo (Ohio). Her brother Jacob is a junior at Creighton.
“She plays with the physicality we need to compete in our league,” Collins said.
Deaton and Epperson will be part of a new-look roster when the players do resume workouts together.
Three players are transferring to another school in freshman guard Nicole Scales, sophomore forward Cirkeline Rimdal and junior center Danneka Voegeli with Voegeli announcing on Twitter she's going to play at Mayville State (N.D.) next year. NDSU signed three players last November in high school players Abigail Schulte from Maple Grove, Minn., and Kyle Strop from River Falls, Wis., and junior college transfer Reneya Hopkins from Redlands Community College (Okla.).
Hopkins averaged 17.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.5 assists and was a third team Division I JUCO all-American.
Recruiting these days because of the campus shutdown is vastly different than when those players signed. Mostly, Collins said, it’s been a lot of phone calls and video conference calls.
“We did an official visit, what we called an official visit, a couple weeks ago where we took the computer around and did a virtual tour live,” Collins said.
Also gone are the April and May evaluation periods for 2021 recruits. It makes gauging the improvement of players from an AAU season this spring to summer basketball camps virtually impossible.
“Honestly, a lot of the kids are kids we’ve been recruiting all year long,” Collins said. “Obviously some new ones have popped up that you’re starting to get film from their high school season. It’s the new kids you’re wanting to bring in, the ‘21 class.”