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Ethridge Announces Two Additions in the Early Signing Period

Nov 12, 2020

PULLMAN, Wash. – Washington State University women's basketball head coach Kamie Ethridge announced the first two signees of the 2021 class on Wednesday, Nov. 11. The Cougs welcome in a pair of highly-touted international talents in Leah Mafua from New Zealand and Tara Wallack from Canada.

"This is a great day for Washington State women's basketball," said Ethridge. "We've signed two exceptional young people in Leah Mafua and Tara Wallack. Leah and Tara bring tremendous versatility, basketball IQ and an offensive arsenal that will impact our program the day they arrive on campus. These two players are 'college-ready' and will continue to be contributors to their individual National team programs for years to come."

Leah Mafua is a 5-10 guard that comes to the Palouse via Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colorado. A native of Wellington, New Zealand, Mafua made quite the impact in her first year with the Rattlers, averaging a team-high 18.9 points and 4.9 assists per game. Her efforts earned Mafua an All-American honorable mention selection from both the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) and World Exposure, and helped OJC to a 25-6 record during the 2019-20 season.

"We have known and recruited Leah for several years," said Ethridge. "At Otero Junior College, Leah is coached and mentored by the highly-respected, elite-level women's basketball coach, Landon Steele. In his first season at Otero, Coach Steele orchestrated one of the most significant turn-around seasons in women's basketball, leading the Rattlers to a 25-win season after years of mediocrity."

Mafua took the NCJAA by storm in late January after posting back-to-back triple-doubles. The remarkable pair of performances began on Jan. 25 with a 21-point, 14-rebound, 12-assist effort in a win against North Platte CC. That performance earned Mafua NJCAA Division I National Player of the Week honors for the week of Jan. 20-26. She that followed up with 19 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists on Jan. 28 in a win at Northeastern Junior College. The versatile guard also collected six double-doubles on the year, as she averaged 7.8 rebounds per game.

A high-potent scorer, Mafua tallied 20-more points in 11 contests last season at Otero. She scored a career-high 38 points on Dec. 10 against Laramie County CC. Mafua ended her spectacular rookie campaign by being selected to the NJCAA Division I All-Region IX and Region IX All-Tournament teams.

"Leah possesses an attack-oriented style, complimented by a high basketball IQ. She has the ability to play multiple positions in our system. Leah is a stat-sheet-stuffer, who is a triple-double threat each time she takes the floor. Her passing, shot-making abilities and overall feel for the game, will make a dynamic impact on our program."

The Wellington, New Zealand native becomes the third Kiwi to come to the Palouse over the last three seasons. She joins Krystal and Charlisse Leger-Walker, who are from Waikato, New Zealand. Mafua and the youngest Leger-Walker sister, Charlisse, were teammates on the New Zealand Junior National Team. The duo played together for the Tall Ferns at the FIBA U17 Oceania Championships in 2017 and the 2018 FIBA Asian Championships. Prior to her arrival at Otero, Mafua led her high school, Hutt Valley, to a New Zealand high school national runner-up finish in 2018. She earned national all-tournament honors after guiding her team to the title game.

Tara Wallack is a 6-2 guard from South Surrey, British Columbia, Canada and comes to Pullman with international playing experience. Wallack has been a member of the Canadian National Women's Basketball Team since 2019 and helped Team Canada win the silver medal at the 2019 FIBA Americas Tournament in Chile.

"Tara Wallack is a 'Winner' in every sense of the word," expressed Ethridge. "She prioritizes being a person, student and athlete that others can respect, and look to, as an example of personal excellence."

Wallack guided Semiahmoo Secondary School to back-to-back British Columbia Provincial Championships in 2019 and 2020. During her junior season, she was named the MVP of the Senior Girls Provincial Championship game after posting a double-double with an impressive 29 points and 23 rebounds. During the Provincials, Wallack averaged 26 points and 15 rebounds per game. Additionally, she was named the MVP of the 2020 Centennial Top Ten Tournament.

"Tara comes to us from a highly-successful Canadian high school program. She has had the unique, and priceless opportunity, to be coached by former Canadian Olympic coach, Allison McNeill. Coach McNeill is known and respected world-wide for her ability to develop player skills, while selecting and teaching systems that allow both individual players and teams to maximize their strengths. Coach McNeill has had a major impact for players like Tara, and Canadian women's basketball globally, to be successful."

At the international level, Wallack has appeared in five games for her home country, all of which came at the 2019 U16 FIBA Americas Championship. She averaged 6.0 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 15 minutes of action per game to help Team Canada win silver at the tournament.

"At 6-2, Tara has developed ball skills which allow her to be a threat at positions all over the court," said the Washington State head coach. "She has an uncanny ability to read individual matchups and game situations in a way that results in her maximizing her physical strength and skill sets. Tara's versatile package of skills, her confidence, and her IQ or 'feel' for the game combine to make her a potential elite-level Power Five talent. I am confident she will make a tremendous and immediate impact in our program"

For more information and to stay up-to-date on the Washington State women's basketball team, follow @WSUCougarsWBB on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.