Bison women's basketball program adds 2 players who were high school teammates in Australia
North Dakota State head women's basketball coach Jory Collins announced two signings Friday.
FARGO — North Dakota State head women's basketball coach Jory Collins said he didn't expect to add an international recruit to bolster the team's point guard position, but a high school connection changed that roster projection.
The Bison signed point guard Leah Mackenzie, a prep recruit, and forward Georgia Baldwin, a transfer, Friday, Collins announced. Both players are from Melbourne, Australia, and played for Box Hill Senior Secondary College in Mont Albert, where they were high school teammates.
"We didn’t have the intention of going international with our point guard," Collins said. "In the process of recruiting Georgia, all of a sudden her teammate from high school was available, too. We kind of fell into that one which is great.”
Mackenzie decommitted from New Mexico State after a coaching change, Collins said, while at the same time the Bison were recruiting Baldwin. NDSU had heavily recruited Baldwin out of high school before she decided to play at Eastern Kentucky.
“We’re happy to get her the second time around," Collins said. “She doesn’t have one outstanding skill set, I think she’s pretty good across the board. She’s just a tough kid. She’s very competitive. Those are things we liked about her coming out.”
The 6-foot Baldwin spent the past two seasons at Eastern Kentucky and played in 11 games, but her opportunity was limited due to COVID-19 disrupting her first season, along with a coaching change during her time there, Collins said. She averaged 15.0 points and 10.0 rebounds per game while at Box Hill Senior Secondary College.
“She really hasn’t had a chance to get going," Collins said.
The 5-foot-8 Mackenzie averaged 16.0 points, 4.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game during her career at Box Hill.
“She’s a point guard’s point guard," Collins said. “She can score at all three levels. She’s already physically really strong for her age. ... She is really good in the pick-and-roll and making decisions and being able to know whether it is time to score or time to pass. There is a lot to like there with her game. When good players become available and it’s a good fit, it’s hard to turn them down.”
With the addition of Baldwin and Mackenzie, the Bison have signed eight players this offseason, including forward Abbie Draper, forward Kristina Ekofo, forward Taylor Brown, forward Abby Graham, guard Elle Evans and forward Marwa Bedziri. Four of those players are transfers, while Mackenzie, Evans, Bedziri and Graham are incoming freshmen.
“These players are a good mix," Collins said. “I think we did a good job of spreading it out. We’re going to be young, but really talented and it will just be about putting them together.”
The Bison lost eight off last year's team, including multiple players to the transfer portal. Ryan Cobbins, who transferred to Alabama, Olivia Skibiel, who transferred to Minnesota State Moorhead, and Ellie Dague, who transferred to St. Thomas, were among the players that left the program. Dague was injured last season and didn't play as a freshman for NDSU.
“Without question that was a couple more than we had hoped for or anticipated," Collins said. “You have to know what it is now, it’s just different. It’s hard to anticipate right now with the portal on who you’re going to have. It’s hard to project your roster out two, three and four years.”
The Bison added four international players with the additions of Baldwin and McKenzie. The 6-foot-2 Ekofo is from Belgium and the 6-foot-3 Bedziri is from Sweden. Collins doesn't expect any more additions this offseason to a roster that now has 13 scholarship players and two walk-ons.
Guard Heaven Hamling, forward Emily Behnke, guard Abby Schulte, guard Sophie Olson and forward Katie Hildebrandt are among the key returning players. Collins said while the amount of roster turnover is not optimal, there is some benefit to the transfer portal.
“When you do have to do it, it’s a double-edged sword," Collins said. "We were able to get some really good players and really good fits for our program that are going to help us immediately. It’s just a different ballgame than it was a couple years ago.”