Elly Walters grew up in Brownson Arena, so it was a little strange for her to be on the opposing team her freshman year, playing basketball at Regis University.
She's back home now, one of three transfers joining the Colorado Mesa women's basketball team next season.
"West Slope, best slope," Walters said Wednesday, laughing that she's packed away the navy and gold gear she wore at both Rifle High School and Regis, and was sporting new CMU basketball shorts and T-shirt at the Mavs' all-girls basketball camp.
"I spent a lot of summers here," the 5-foot-9 guard said. "It's funny to be back on the other end of it."
It was hard to say no to CMU coach Taylor Wagner out of high school for Walters, whose father, Roger, was CMU's women's basketball coach for three years when Elly was in grade school. She liked the academics Regis had to offer as well as the basketball, and wanted to give living in Denver a try.
Ultimately, a health scare for her mother, Christy, helped Elly decide she wanted to be closer to home. Plus, she loved the atmosphere in Brownson Arena when the Rangers played the Mavs in the RMAC semifinals.
"She was in the hospital a couple of times this year and I decided I wanted to be closer to home, I didn't want them to have to travel every weekend," Elly said of her mother, who is doing better now.
"We played here and there were so many people who came from Rifle and people from here I know. Between that and my mom, I just wanted to be closer to home and closer to her, but it was such a cool atmosphere, I wanted to be a part of it and have a whole community behind you.
"I felt a little lost (in Denver). When I got here, it brought everything back and you know this is where you need to be."
When her dad was the Mavs' coach, Elly was his shadow, spending every weekend at Brownson.
She played AAU basketball with several of CMU's current players, so it's been an easy transition, and her style will fit Wagner's system.
"I'm super excited because I love structure and they run a ton of sets. Coach Wagner's a genius. I'm really excited to be a part of that," she said, again laughing that she's happy to be on the team running Wagner's bread-and-butter "Dayton" set instead of trying to guard the multiple options the play generates.
Wagner likes the versatility Walters brings to the floor — she can play all three guard spots — and how hard she plays.
"She plays every play, never takes one off," he said. "You can tell she's a coach's kid, just goes out there and does what has to get done for the team. It's fun to see that and all the experience she got last year. I know she's going to come in and do that for us."
He recruited Walters hard out of high school, and left the door open for her if she ever wanted to come home.
"To get her back coming home, we're really excited and just know she's going to make an immediate impact for us," Wagner said.
The two other signees should also make an immediate impact, Morgan Myers, a 5-7 guard who is transferring from Dixie State, and Savannah Domgaard, a 6-foot forward from Snow College.
"Again, she's someone else who mops the floor with her body, plays all-out," Wagner said of Myers, who averaged 6.8 points and 4.7 rebounds this past season at Dixie. "Defensively she's going to thrive with us because of our emphasis on it and she does so well.
"I think she's going to come in and take us to another level with the energy. We have a bunch of those girls who just come in and play with their heart and she's another one of them. I would like to keep that in the program."
Domgaard gives the Mavs a post player with a little bit different dynamic. She's not a big body on the low block, but plays with her back to the basket. Most of the Mavs' post players the past few years have been face-up players.
"She can really score with her back to the basket," Wagner said. "I feel like that's one area we wanted to improve on the offensive side and she's going to bring that for us. She can get down there and we can throw her the ball and she's got a variety of moves."
With the three transfers and Grand Junction graduate Kenzie Younker joining a veteran team that reached the South Central Regional semifinals, Wagner's eager to see how it all comes together.
"It's gonna be fun this year to see how all the pieces come together and how they gel," he said. "That'll be the key to our success; that's how it was last year."
Another Western Slope product is coming home for her final two years of college, Bayfield High School graduate Maddi Foutz.
The daughter of former Mesa standout Terene Foutz is transferring from Colorado State, where she started all 31 matches as a sophomore defensive specialist. She played in 32 matches, with 12 starts, as a freshman.
An Academic All-Mountain West player, the 5-foot-5 junior will compete to be the Mavs' starting libero with the graduation of Taylor Woods.
Foutz was on the AVCA Under Armour All-America watch list her senior year at Bayfield, where she played for her mother, as well as on the Four Corners Volleyball Club.
"Maddi brings contagious energy to the gym and has a great knowledge and love of the game," CMU coach Dave Fleming said in a release announcing Foutz's transfer. "It will be hard to keep her off the floor as a libero or DS."