Lacey McNulty was an all-Canadian star at Moira Secondary School in Belleville, Ont.
But when the 6-foot-2 forward arrived at the University of Toledo in the fall of 2005, she had to start all over again. Given her fair share of minutes as a freshman, by her second year, they’d all but dried up.
McNulty had lost the confidence of the Toledo coaches, and eventually she left the team.
It’s been a tough stretch ever since, said McNulty, the star recruit of a deep class being brought in this fall by Lakehead Thunderwolves women’s basketball coach Jon Kreiner.
"It has been extremely difficult for me not to play the past three years," McNulty said in an email interview from her Belleville home.
"Open gyms and pick-up games just don’t cut it for me. I have so much passion and love for the game that it’s been driving me nuts not being able to play."
Unlike would-be NCAA transfer Darnella Russell, who agreed to come to Lakehead two summers ago, only to arrive alone and quickly develop a case of homesickness for her two young children, LU coach Jon Kreiner said McNulty is excited to come to Thunder Bay.
"It’s a different situation," Kreiner said. "Lacey is from Canada and she has a bit of a support system here already, with a good friend. She fit in right away with the team," Kreiner said.
That friend is Jamie Searle, the versatile star point guard of the men’s basketball team at Lakehead. Like McNulty, Searle hails from Belleville, a cozy community of 50,000 or so nestled in the Highway 401 corridor between Kingston and Toronto.
So far, Kreiner likes what he’s seen from his new recruit, who has already dedicated herself to Thunderwolves basketball, months before the team’s opening tip-off, in a season filled with more promise than any other in recent memory," noting McNulty is scheduled to arrive next month. "Just her size alone and the way she’s able to move are great. She sees things develop before they happen."
McNulty was sold on Thunder Bay after her first visit, watching the team play its way to a third-place finish in the OUA East and host its first playoff game in more than a decade. Lakehead wasn’t the only school she visited, but it was the only one that made a lasting impression.
"At the other schools there was hardly anyone at the games, and they said it was because of reading week and all the students were gone, which is understandable," McNulty said. "But at Lakehead over reading week, the gym was still packed, and there were little or no students there. So I can only imagine what it would be like if there were students and faculty there, like I know they are."
Though her time at the Ohio-based University of Toledo wasn’t the best, at least where her basketball progress was concerned, McNulty said she still picked up plenty of experience in her short two-season stint with the Rockets.
A self-described natural leader on and off the court, she hopes to bring her Division 1 experience to Thunder Bay this fall.
"I know what it takes to pay against bigger and better teams, as well as what it takes to come from the bottom and work your way up. So I’m hoping that along with those things and more, I can bring a lot to the table for myself and my teammates next year," she said.
McNulty may be the biggest catch of Kreiner’s recruiting efforts, but by no means is she the only player he’s bringing in to compete for a spot on the team this fall.
Also on board for 2010-11 are guard Darcy Zinck of Halifax’s Citadel High School, Megan Barss of Regina, Ashley Randall of Hamilton and Thunder Bay products Katie Ulakovic, who Kreiner called the best athlete he’s ever worked with, and Lindsay Inkila.
The Wolves lost just Chiaki Nakamura and Shannon Vellinga off last year’s squad.