Austin Meyer and Addae Houston have made no secret about where their bread is buttered in recruiting.
Currently on the Northwest Missouri State women's basketball roster 14 of the 15 girls come from either Missouri, Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska. The lone outlier is still a Midwest product with Savannah Guenther being from Illinois.
The university has recently adopted the 'in the middle of everywhere' mantra and that is certainly the case for the women's team which comes from all around Northwest's footprint.
On Friday, the Bearcats landed another player from right down the road with Cameron star Laini Joseph. The Dragon sharp-shooter didn't think the location was going to be a big factor in her recruitment initially.
“As I got talking with my parents and coaches, it made me realize that being closer to home to see my brother play, and have fans from Cameron come and see me play is a pretty big deal for me,” Joseph said. “I think it will be nice to see people at my games every time and have a fanbase here in Cameron as well as Maryville.”
Then she visited Northwest, met some of her future teammates, and talked more with Meyer and Houston. Joseph posted to Twitter that she had received a Northwest offer on Aug. 5, and on Aug. 7, she posted that she had committed.
“I'm proud of her and couldn't be happier for her,” Cameron coach Matt Wenck said. “It is a pretty big accomplishment to get an athletic scholarship especially to a school like Northwest Missouri State. That program is definitely on the rise.
“The way they are recruiting kids and the type of kids they are bringing into their program – I'm talking about Laini as well as everybody else that they have. They are getting winners. Coach Meyer and Coach Houston are working very hard to create a culture that is second to none.”
Joseph was a dynamic scorer Cameron, earning First-Team All-MEC honors as a junior and earning the second-most All-MEC votes behind only Maryville's Serena Sundell.
“The biggest improvement I hope to make is to be more efficient as a scorer,” Joseph said.
Joseph averaged 19.1 points per game last season while contributing all over the floor by grabbing 8.5 rebounds per game and also shooting 37 percent from the 3-point line. With 4.7 assists and 2.4 steals a game as well, she has shown the ability to impact the game in a multitude of ways.
“She passes the ball well,” Wenck said. “She sees things before they happen. Her instincts are impeccable, and she makes her teammates better.”
Like the men's team, the Bearcat women have transitioned more and more to position-less basketball in recent years. Joseph feels she can be the type of weapon that Meyer can deploy and do a little bit of everything.
“They said that in their program, they have have point guards and posts and then they just have just a bunch of players,” Joseph said. “They want everybody just to be a player and just to go out and play, and not have as many plays to run. I'm probably going to be in the category of just a player.”
The direction of the program was also an important fact in Joseph's decision. Meyer took over a program which won five games the season before, and he increased it to eight wins in his first season and 12 wins last year.
“Their progress over the last two or three years has been really impressive to me,” Joseph said. “It made me really excited to be a part of the change in the program.”
Joseph also was pleased that Meyer and Houston seem to be locked in for the long term in Maryville with the women's basketball program and loved the stability they provide.
“It is reassuring that they want to be there,” Wenck said. “I don't think they really want to go anywhere else.”
With another season to make her mark in Cameron, Joseph hopes to rain on Maryville's parade before she joins the community. After finishing third in the district last year and falling in the district semifinals, Joseph's Dragons hope to take what Maryville earned last season and win a district title.
In addition to that though, Joseph just hopes to instill a winning culture with the Dragon program.
“I really hope to win a district championship and do well in our conference this year,” Joseph said. “Once I leave too, I hope the girls have a winning season afterwards, and I hope they want to win – feel like they want to win, want to work hard and have a good season afterwards.”