Former campers now playing for UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball team

Published: Jun. 16, 2022 at 8:43 AM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - There’s a saying, “Tradition never graduates,” and that certainly holds true for the UW-Eau Claire women’s basketball program. The next generation of Blugold players are taking center state at UWEC this summer as the girls at camp are getting the chance to learn from the young ladies that were campers not so long ago.

“As a kid I always looked up to the Blugolds and I came to these camps and I thought they were so amazing. It’s crazy now that these kids can see me that way.”

For UW-Eau Claire junior Brianna Nelson, her basketball career has come full circle. The Augusta native played her high school hoops at Eleva-Strum which led to an opportunity to play for the Blugolds. Brianna says she loves watching these campers get a chance to follow in her footsteps.

“Just helping the kids learn, overall they grow with the couple of days that we have them, even with the one day that we have them and it’s awesome to see the relationships that I can build with the kids and they can build with each other,” says Nelson.

Throughout her two decades-plus coaching career at UW-Eau Claire, Tonja Englund has always made it a priority to recruit local kids to play for the Blugolds. Her current squad includes two former Menomonie High school standouts, Kylie Mogen and Tyra Boettcher.

“It’s always been a dream of mine ever since I was this age as a young girl to play college basketball and to bring it back to this area, the Eau Claire area, the Menomonie area is definitely a dream come true. I loved being at this age, loved going to basketball camps, and the girls that worked those camps were truly the ones that I looked up to and wanted to be like some day,” says Boettcher.

“Just so many of those people have made my life, my success possible and to be kind of like a mentor for the young girls here, like the mentors were for me, I remember going to Blugolds camp when I was younger and saying I want to be just like them and now I’m able to carry that with me now that I’m at the collegiate level and be a role model for these girls,” adds Mogen.

With several hundred campers expected at Blugolds summer camp, Coach Englund says she takes pride in watching her current players share their passion for the game with the hope they can help inspire the next generation of UWEC student-athletes.

“I want them to come into the gym and feel safe and that they can come in and learn and make mistakes and they’re not going to be judged. They’re going to meet some new friends and most importantly they are going to watch some tremendous female role models. And hopefully they’re going to come back to a game this year, they are going to watch them play and if the fans don’t know this, the reason we stay out on the floor after our games are over so these campers can come down and talk to my players that coach them during the summer and that we make those connections,” says Englund.

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