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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: All-NSIC center Rachael Heittola transfers to Northern Iowa

Heittola, a two-time All-NSIC First Team selection, spent three seasons with the Beavers and quickly grew into one of the best centers in the NSIC. She’s now flipped that success into a Division I opportunity, as UNI announced on Monday the addition of Heittola to its 2022-23 roster.

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Bemidji State sophomore Rachael Heittola hits the go-ahead free throw in the final minute of a game against Minnesota State Moorhead on Friday, Dec. 10, 2021, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- The transfer portal has roped in its latest traveler, as Bemidji State women’s basketball center Rachael Heittola is jumping up to Northern Iowa.

Heittola, a two-time All-NSIC First Team selection, spent three seasons with the Beavers and quickly grew into one of the best centers in the NSIC. She’s now flipped that success into a Division I opportunity, as UNI announced on Monday the addition of Heittola to its 2022-23 roster.

"We are beyond thrilled to have Rachael join our program for the next two years," Northern Iowa head coach Tanya Warren said in a release. "She has had an impressive career at Bemidji State and we can't wait to have her in a Panther uniform next year. She is a very talented post player who can score on the block and has the ability to step out and shoot the 3. She is a perfect fit for how we like to play and I expect her to make an immediate impact for us next year."

Heittola finishes her BSU career with 958 points and 479 rebounds, including career-highs of 15.5 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game in 2021-22. The Belleville, Wis., native started every game in the past two seasons.

The loss is a huge one for the Beavers, who already lost four starters due to graduation. Paired with the Heittola transfer, Bemidji State carries over zero career starts on the roster and will send out five new starters in 2022-23.

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While next year’s roster is hardly set in stone, soon-to-be redshirt sophomore Jana Swanson likely stands as the frontrunner to replace Heittola as the team’s starting center. She backed up Heittola off the bench in 2021-22, averaging 2.9 points and 2.3 rebounds in 7.9 minutes per game.

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Bemidji State sophomore Rachael Heittola runs out after being introduced as a starter during the NSIC Tournament quarterfinals against Concordia-St. Paul on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022, at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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