Nazareth’s Russell finds ‘perfect’ fit at Western Carolina

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Erykah Russell nearly made a rush decision she was going to regret.

The Nazareth girls’ basketball forward had to wait to complete the recruiting process as she finished earning academic clearance. Russell committed to Fairleigh Dickinson after her visit in early March, but a few schools kept courting her, and suitor Western Carolina proved it was everything she was looking for.

“Everything just fell right into place,” Russell said. “It just seemed perfect.”

The school offers Russell’s desired speech pathology major, will allow her to travel away from home, and boasts a playing style that fits her skill set. She made it official recently, signing a National Letter of Intent to join the Catamounts next season.

“It just seemed like everything I was asking for, that’s what they had,” Russell said. “I was really excited.”

Russell heads to a program looking to rebuild under first-year head coach Stephanie McCormack. The program’s transition period will ease Russell’s own change-over.

“It’s kind of exciting, because it feels like everyone is going through it with you,” Russell said. “Everything is new for everybody.”

McCormack runs a system that will allow Russell, a big, to utilize her perimeter skills. It’s something she believes will bring out the best in her.

“Everyone can play every position, so it is very versatile,” Russell said. “I really like that, because I’m a giver who can play like a guard and get to the basket. It will help me expand on my game so that I am not just one position.”

Russell, who helped the Lady Kingsmen win at state Federation Class-A championship as a junior, was an All-Brooklyn Honorable Mention selection by the Courier Life Publications this season. She averaged 8.9 points, 10.4 rebounds, and 2.3 steals per game last season.

“Erykah has proven that she is a clutch player in big moments and has such a passion for winning that she refuses to accept any alternative,” McCormick said.

Russell is thankful she accepted nothing less than the best fit when it came to college. The stress of watching other seniors committing while she had to hold off was worth it, because of where she finally landed.

“I’m very happy with where I ended up,” Russell said. “This felt like it was perfect. It was a good thing that I waited and didn’t rush into anything.”

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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