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Payne signs with Eastern Washington Eagles

Dustin Barneburg/ Mainstream
Ashli Payne, two-time NWAC south region player of the year, pulls up in the lane versus the Blue Mountain Wolves in the 2013-14 NWAC semi-finals while Asia Smith and Kyndal Charelston look on. Payne finished in the top-ten in points, rebounds and assists for the 2014-15 season.

After two illustrious seasons, UCC sophomore Ashli Payne made an April 15 announcement that she was headed back to her home state of Washington to finish her college basketball career.

Payne, a two-time NWAC south region player of the year, signed on National Signing Day (First day recruits can sign with prospective colleges) letter of intent with the division one Eastern Washington Eagles out of Cheney, Washington to play basketball for the 2015-16 season.

“I’m looking forward to playing at a very competitive level and having the opportunity to experience university life,” Payne said.

Payne joins an Eastern Washington squad that competes out of the Big Sky Conference against the likes of University of Montana, Portland State and Northern Arizona. The Eagles had a solid year this past season. Eastern Washington finished 12-6 (third) in conference play and 21-12 overall. Payne will be a valuable addition to an already competitive team and is clear about the strengths and weakness’ she brings to Cheney.

“My strengths are definitely my work ethic and versatility,” Payne said. “I plan on working on my shooting, getting my shot off quicker, and having a more consistent shot.”

Payne leaves Umpqua as one of the most versatile female athletes ever to put on a Riverhawk uniform. She was the only player throughout the entire NWAC to finish in the top-ten in scoring, rebounding and assists. Her totals of 17.84 ppg (fifth), 10.00 rebounds (fourth) and 4.31 assists (eighth) was good enough to land her on the WBCA Junior College All-American team. Payne was one of only 10 players to make the squad, capping off a litany of post-season awards.

“Making the all-defensive team was one of my goals at the start of my sophomore season,” Payne said. “Defense is something that I wasn’t typically known for, so making that team was a real accomplishment for me.”

Besides making the 2014-15 NWAC south region all-defensive team, Payne was an all-conference first team selection for the second straight season. She won her second straight conference player of the year award while excelling in the classroom. Payne was named to the NWAC’s all-academic team personifying herself as a student/athlete.

“I’m deciding if I want to pursue a visual communication or mechanical engineering degree,” Payne said. “If I have the possibility of playing (basketball) overseas, I definitely want to do that. But if not, I plan on working in the field of whatever degree I get.”

Before moving forward as a student/athlete, Payne will turn the page in her life as a Riverhawk. Something that she knows is quickly approaching. She is clear about what has been most important to her in her time at Umpqua.

“Meeting my best friend Mana (Romanalyn Inocencio), and my roommate Pili (Pilialoha Kailiawa),” Payne said. “Also, having a really successful basketball career here and meeting some of the friendliest people ever in Roseburg. Saying goodbye, it’s going to hurt a lot, I’m actually really nervous for that day. But we will for sure stay in touch.”