Prep Basketball: Brumfield Bound for Portland State
COMMITTED: Erika Brumfield Commits to Vikings Following State Championship Season
By Matt Baide
Erika Brumfield will be a senior for the W.F. West girls basketball team next season, and it will be tough for her to top the level of accolades and success she achieved in her junior season.
Brumfield will sign her letter of intent in November after verbally committing to play for Portland State University following her prep career, which included lifting the gold ball trophy in March at the State 2A basketball tournament.
Her basketball journey to signing on the dotted line began when she started playing basketball in fifth grade, playing for her dad, Taj, who was also an assistant coach for the Lady Bearcats this season.
She ran into her future W.F. West coach Tom Kelly, although she wasn’t thrilled about playing for him when she watched a Kelly practice at Morton-White Pass.
“My dad was coaching us in fifth grade. We’re watching this MWP practice, and these girls are puking everywhere and they’re just running,” Brumfield recalled. “They’re just puking and I look at my dad and I was like, ‘I’m never going to play for this guy. I’m not doing this.’ Turns out it was Tom so that was pretty funny.”
Fast forward to her prep career, with the Lady Bearcats collecting a 61-16 record in the three seasons Brumfield and the senior class have played in.
In the 2017-18 season, the Lady Bearcats only had two seniors in Kiara Steen and Julia Johnson. It was an important season for Brumfield, who had been playing with Steen since eighth grade.
“She has definitely been one of my role models and bringing that relationship into the high school season, Kiara and Julia have just been there for me and it’s awesome having them as role models and obviously as teammates and friends,” Brumfield said. “I love them.”
The team had a strong regular season and only lost two games to Camas and Prairie. Throughout the season, the team came closer together off the court which helped them play better on the court.
“I felt like we were super close this year, a lot closer than we were last year,” Brumfield said. “I think because we just spent so much time together and we did a lot more team bonding things. We did more team dinners and I felt like we were all really close friends, they’re my friends for life now so it’s awesome having them.”
The team won the District Championship and followed it up with a run through the state tournament, eventually clutching the gold ball trophy after a 64-52 come-from-behind win over Archbishop Murphy in the title game.
“I’m so proud, because I know going into the state tournament, we were very focused on our goals and I know, for me, I wanted to win so bad just for Kiara and Julia,” Brumfield said. “And our coaches, obviously, because they deserved it more than anybody did. Our mentality was very focused. Our job is to get that gold ball, that’s what we’re here to do and I was so excited that we were able to do that; so so proud.”
Sharing the experience of winning a title with her dad as a coach and her mom helping the team out throughout the season was a special moment for the Brumfield family.
“That was the greatest thing ever, especially just having him on the bench there throughout the entire season,” Brumfield said. “It meant a lot to me to be able to share that experience with him because he’s not only my coach, he’s my dad, so it was super awesome.”
The gold ball trophy ended up at the Brumfield house for three days following the tournament before being placed in the display case at W.F. West.
Throughout the season, Brumfield was getting calls from various college coaches, requesting her services once she graduates from W.F. West.
“It wasn’t too bad. Right before the season started, it was pretty crazy,” Brumfield said. “Then the college coaches, they have their own season to coach, so then it died down a little bit but after the state tournament, around there it picked up again pretty big, and all the way through May and the beginning of June. It picked up pretty crazily.”
Brumfield felt the process was tough at times, but she mostly enjoyed visiting college campuses and the chance to survey her potential basketball destinations.
“I was very grateful for the opportunity just to go to the different campuses I was able to visit, so I didn’t think that part was necessarily tough,” Brumfield said. “I just thought it was kind of stressful for me because I was getting all these phone calls and text messages like, ‘Hey, can we call you at this time?’ but then this other coach was already planning on calling me at this time.”
She went and visited Portland State and didn’t expect to like the university as much as she did. After touring the campus and meeting head coach Lynn Kennedy, she knew it was the place for her.
“For me, it’s obviously academics before basketball. I loved the campus and everything is kind of near each other, the dorm is a couple blocks away from the pavillion and you have all your main courses next to each other so that was nice,” Brumfield explained. “For the basketball, it was definitely just talking to the head coach and watching the practice before I practiced with them. Coach Kennedy, he was involved in the practice and he was teaching the girls and that means a lot to me to have the head coach involved. That was one of the points that kind of sold me on that.”
It was also a bonus for Brumfield that Kelly and Kennedy knew each other and also play a similar style of basketball, pushing the pace and using pressure defense to keep opposing teams off balance.
Before suiting up in a Vikings’ uniform, she has the summer as well as her senior season to improve her game. This past season, she was working on her offensive game.
“I feel like compared to last season, my offensive game was definitely more there, at least for high school,” Brumfield said. “I’ve been really working on it in my club season and my off season, trying to develop that more and I think it came together more this season.”
This summer, she has played June ball for W.F. West before traveling across the Cascade Mountains to play for Sagebrush Hoops out of the Tri-Cities. Coach Mike Hodgins has been helping Brumfield improve her decision-making skills.
“I want to get faster at decision making because obviously at the next level, everybody is as good as you or better so I’ve got to work on that,” Brumfield said. “Then just really my defensive game in general because coach Kennedy plays a straight up man, no-help defense and I’ve never played that before. I’m going to try to work on that so I don’t go in blind freshman year.”
Sagebrush Hoops, a team comprised of some of the best girls’ basketball players in the state, has two tournaments in Oregon before traveling to Las Vegas for a tournament. From Vegas, the team will drive to Los Angeles for a tournament to wrap up the summer basketball schedule.
Once summer basketball ends, Brumfield will be counting down the days until the 2018-19 season begins. While her dad won’t be coaching this year, her sister, Drea, will be a freshman for the Lady Bearcats.
“She is awesome. She’s actually a guard,” Brumfield said. “She’s a really tall guard, but I’m very excited that I get to play with her.”
Taya McCallum will be unable to play due to a knee injury, but with Courtney Bennett, Annika Waring and Maggie Vadala returning, the team looks poised to keep the gold ball in Chehalis.
“Obviously, Kiara and Julia left huge holes to fill. I see, right now in the offseason, Courtney, she’s being point guard and Maggie at point guard and then we have Drea coming in,” Brumfield said. “We have both the Haakenson’s back this year so I feel like players are definitely going to step up and be able to fill those holes.”
Brumfield will be playing her season with a sense of relaxation after the sometimes stressful recruiting process.
“It’s a lot less stressful. Even after coach Kennedy called me and he was like, ‘So have you thought about it?’ and I was like, ‘Yes, I accept your offer,’” Brumfield said. “It was like, almost as if I had like dropped some stuff and I felt relaxed.”
Kelly will have one more season to coach Brumfield, and she is excited for one last season to play with a coach she admires.
“I’m just so excited to play for him one more time because he’s not only been a coach for me, he’s been a role model for me,” Brumfield said. “I love Tom, he’s so awesome and I’m really excited that I can play for him just one more year.”
As a team goal, Brumfield has her eyes set on the gold ball trophy once again.
“Obviously nobody likes to lose and I definitely do not want to lose but I think that we have a pretty high bar for us coming into the season,” Brumfield said. “I do not believe that there will be many losses this season, if any.”
Personally, Brumfield thanked Shon Kelly, John Camlin & Hodges Bailey for their help in developing her game into the player she is today.
Going into the prep season, Brumfield wants to be a leader for the Lady Bearcats and improve her game as much as possible before her collegiate career.
“I think my personal goals for the season would just be to be the best teammate I can be and the best leader I can be on and off the court for my teammates,” Brumfield said. “Just trying to work on my offensive game and trying to all around get myself better and prepared for the next level.”