Wahl to be inducted into NAU hall
FLAGSTAFF — When Alyssa Wahl is inducted as part of the 2012 Northern Arizona University Athletics Hall of Fame class this week, it will be the crowning achievement for one of the best players that ever suited up for the Lumberjack women's basketball program.
Wahl, the program's all-time leading scorer and rebounder and one of the leading forces on the program's lone NCAA Tournament team, will join the exclusive ranks of NAU athletes just five years after wrapping up her stellar career.
“I was very excited to hear about my induction,” Wahl said. “I didn't really think it would happen so soon since I've only been graduated for five years. But I'm really hoping that someday, my team from 2006 will be inducted, too, since we're the first (NAU women's basketball) team to make it to the NCAA Tournament.”
Wahl, a graduate of Cibola, made an immediate impact from the moment she stepped on the court, averaging 12.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as a freshman, earning her Big Sky Freshman of the Year honors as well as an all-conference honorable mention selection in 2004. She would follow up her debut season with a solid sophomore campaign, raising her scoring average to 14.8 points per game and earning the first of her three All-Big Sky First Team selections.
After steady improvement from the team in her first two years — 12 wins in 2004 to 19 wins in 2005 — Wahl played a huge role in taking the NAU women's basketball program to the next level in 2006, a season which she considers the “biggest highlight of my career.”
The 2006 squad won the program's first-ever Big Sky Tournament title and subsequently earned the program's first and only NCAA Tournament berth to date. Wahl was named the Big Sky Tournament MVP that year, helping the Lumberjacks become the first team in conference history to ever have to win three games to clinch the tournament championship.
The Lumberjacks would eventually be matched up with Baylor, the defending national champions, in the NCAA First Round held in Tucson. Although NAU would lose 74-56, the Lumberjacks would tie the all-time record for wins in a season with 22 in 2006.
“Basketball is such a team sport, so making the NCAA Tournament and having such a great season my junior year was the biggest highlight of my career,” Wahl said. “I know I wouldn't have been half the player I was, though, without the players I played with like Kim Winkfield, Sade Cunningham, Laura Dinkins and Megan (Rice) Porter.”
Wahl would conclude her illustrious career in 2007, helping the Lumberjacks to a second-consecutive 20-win season. She posted a scoring average of 17 points per game, the highest of her career, that year and became the school's all-time leading scorer in the process. Wahl would also break the school's all-time rebounding mark as a senior and finish the year ranked No. 39 in the country in field goal percentage (.530), which was the highest shooting clip of her career.
Altogether, she finished her career as the leading scorer with 1,678 points and leading rebounder with 771 rebounds among the many places she's left her name in the NAU women's basketball record book. Her 678 field goals are also the most in program history, and her 3,601 career minutes played were the most until Cunningham broke that mark in 2009. Wahl also ranks fifth in field-goal percentage (.481), free throws made (255) and blocks (91).
“The four years I was at NAU were the best four years of my life,” Wahl said. “I miss playing basketball every day, I miss being around my teammates and being part of a team. I could not have asked for a better college experience.”
Wahl would parlay her time at NAU, where she was a three-time All-Big Sky First Team selection and two-time All-Big Sky Tournament team selection, into a professional career in Sweden. With her family originally from that country, she had the opportunity to meet some of her relatives while playing one year for the Visby Ladies, which she called “a great experience to play basketball full-time.”
These days, Wahl works for the Banner Boswell Medical Center in Sun City, Ariz., as an occupational therapist. After graduating with her bachelor of science in speech pathology from NAU in 2007, she recently earned her master's degree in occupational therapy from Midwestern University in Glendale.
“I've been done with school for a year and a half now. I work with the older population (at Banner Boswell). I really enjoy working with that age group because I think they have a lot to teach all of us.”
Despite her career, Wahl has found a way to remain involved with the sport. She serves as the assistant girls varsity basketball coach at Ironwood High School, where her husband, Justin McLellan, is the head coach. Wahl and her husband reside in Peoria, Ariz.
Wahl will become the fifth former women's basketball player in the NAU Athletics Hall of Fame, joining Lea Ann Evers, Julie Hanks, Peggy Kennedy and Mindy Sherred.