Atuahene and Wardwell lead Badgers to most successful season in 20 years


Adiance Cheromiah

Atuahene hitting the midrange spot

When thinking about the best women’s basketball players in the country, NVU-Johnson might not crack your top-10 list of destinations. But hiding in the mountains of Vermont, a Division III basketball powerhouse is making waves in the women’s basketball world.

This past season, sophomore guard Paris Atuahene was third in the nation in scoring this past season, averaging 23.4 points per game. Her teammate Gabby Wardwell pulled down 18.2 rebounds per game, 2.4 more than the next closest in the nation. The two statistical juggernauts give little credit to their skills on the court and a lot of credit to their team bond.

“I guess it goes into putting in the extra work and team chemistry,” Wardwell said. “Getting to know each other as players on the court is a huge part of it.”

Head Coach and Athletic Director Greg Eckman said the pair have put in a lot of work to come this far.

“They started playing pickup ball together,” he said. “They started going to Burlington in the summer and playing in women’s leagues. They started building that chemistry with each other outside of the court. Learning who each other are as people and humans and they’re really great human beings.”

Wardwell’s success on the hardwood is even more remarkable considering the Springfield Vermont native didn’t start playing competitive basketball until her final year of middle school. When she got to Springfield High School, her head coach Pete Peck said she developed a nose for the ball immediately.

“I got a chance to go up and watch her a few times [at NVU-Johnson] and she had over 30 rebounds in one game,” Peck said. “It’s not something anyone can do. You do have to have a knack for it.”

Part of Eckman’s recruiting strategy is finding a diverse group of players from all over the country, which is how he signed Atuahene, who is from Pheonix, Arizona.

“We really wanted to expand on other areas of the countries where individuals we’re missing out on playing college athletics,” Eckman said. “We started identifying some pretty phenomenal college players.”

Atuahene said she immediately fit in with the rest of her teammates.

“I wish I could like have a cooler story,” she said. “But talking to Eck and the people here, it just felt like home. It felt like family and I was just like, ‘woah, this could be somewhere I could build myself up and be my own person.’”

The comfort of her new home was made easy by one team goal.

“We just all agreed, we wanted to do something special this season and I guess make history along the way,” Atuahene said.