Ex-Byron star picks North Dakota State as her next basketball home

Apr. 26—FARGO, N.D. — The college transfer portal has given to Sacia Vanderpool.

After three years spent playing basketball at the University of Wisconsin, her first season as a redshirt, Vanderpool signed up for a change. That happened one month ago.

The 6-foot-4 former Byron star center put her name in the transfer portal. Her desire to move on came down to a single factor — playing time.

Vanderpool was getting next to none as a Badger. She received minutes in just four games this past season. The year before, it was the same thing — two games played, 7 minutes logged.

Vanderpool loved the school, her teammates and the forever connection she has had with the University of Wisconsin. Her father graduated from there and Sacia's older sister Ella Vanderpool remains a student there. Sacia will also earn her undergraduate degree from Wisconsin this summer, the kinesiology major finishing up in just three years.

But she wants more than that. Still with a burning desire to be on the court, Vanderpool hit the portal and on Thursday settled on a move. She will play next season at mid-major Division I school North Dakota State University, the same place where younger brother Zach Vanderpool will land in the fall to play football and get his education.

Sacia can't wait, for all of it.

"I'm definitely excited to get an opportunity to play at the college level," she said. "It was midseason this past year that I made the decision that I was either just going to finish up in Madison and be done with basketball, or hit the portal and see what opportunities were out there."

She piqued the interest of a handful of schools when she entered the portal. NDSU, which had also recruited Vanderpool out of high school, was one of them. The Bison play in one of the top mid-major conferences in the country, the Summit League. They've enjoyed recent success, including finishing this season with a 13-3 league mark, 22-12 overall and invited to play in the Women's National Invitational Tournament where they suffered a four-point loss to the University of Minnesota in the second round. The Bison were 12-6, 18-12 the season before that.

Vanderpool went on an official visit to North Dakota State on Thursday. She did it wanting to see first hand if there were any apparent red flags with the program.

After visiting with NDSU's current players, its coaches and others, she saw nothing not to like. A few hours later, she made it official, signing to be a Bison and with two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Thursday was a wonderful day for the former Byron star.

"I wanted to see the program for myself, which is why I went up there (Thursday)," Vanderpool said. "I was hoping it would be somewhere where I could be happy, and ultimately play. After seeing the chemistry the girls had there and interacting with the coaches, I couldn't find any red flags. Everything just clicked. It made me want to be there."

It sure doesn't hurt that she'll have family there, too, with incoming NDSU football player Zach Vanderpool also set to be in big sister's neighborhood. Sacia appreciates that reality, and so also do her parents, who now have a two-for-one in visits to NDSU's home city of Fargo, N.D..

"Zach also being there, that makes me comfortable," Sacia said. "It's a nice little perk for my family to have us both there."

Vanderpool doesn't reflect on her basketball time in Madison with complete regrets. In fact, she says it's hard to bid goodbye to that program, where she developed tight relationships that she expects will last a lifetime.

Playing at Wisconsin also allowed her the benefit of being a member of the Big Ten Conference, with trips to some of the top colleges in the nation and showdowns with some of the country's best programs. That included the University of Iowa and its mega-star Caitlin Clark.

Those are times that Vanderpool will forever remember fondly.

But moving on now just feels right to her. She expects to see the floor at NDSU.

She can't wait.