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WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: The ascension of Brooklyn Bachmann, from shy freshman to program revivalist

Brooklyn Bachmann has sparked a revolution at Bemidji State, leading the program from a losing lifestyle to a winning culture.

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Brooklyn Bachmann has sparked a revolution at Bemidji State, leading the program from a losing lifestyle to a winning culture.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

BEMIDJI — Brooklyn Bachmann was step one.

“She came in and was told that we needed her to help change BSU,” Bemidji State women’s basketball head coach Chelsea DeVille said. “We saw something in her to be a part of the foundation.”

Under Bachmann’s captaincy, the Beavers have drastically transformed. No longer is losing the expectation or reputation. BSU has risen up the rankings of the NSIC, and a patient yet resolute rebuild has paid off.

“We knew it was going to be a process to get from where we were to where we are now,” Bachmann said. “I knew the vision that the coaches had, so I was just trusting.”

Nearly seven years after Bemidji State spotted Bachmann for the first time, she’s ready to leave the program in much better shape than she found it.

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“We really wanted our class to be the team to turn it around,” Bachmann said. “Being able to see the impact we’ve made is something that’s really cool.”

‘Coming here was different for me’

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Bemidji State senior Brooklyn Bachmann looks forward with the ball during a game against St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

In the summer of 2015, a freshly hired Chelsea DeVille was in Chicago to see a potential recruit play in an AAU tournament.

Brooklyn Bachmann was on the other team.

Bachmann turned heads, and the Beavers courted her for about a year and a half. They watched as the Minooka, Ill., product scored a program-record 1,523 points for her high school. They held onto hope as the highly sought-after guard fielded offers ranging from community colleges to Division I in both basketball and volleyball.

Bachmann finally committed to Bemidji State and debuted as a shy rookie in 2017-18. She later told the Beaver Radio Network that “my whole freshman year, I don’t think I looked coach DeVille in the eye one time.”

Despite her timidity, Bachmann led BSU in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes as a freshman. But still, Bemidji State went 4-23 and lost its final 17 games.

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Brooklyn Bachmann (12) attempts to get rid of the ball against Valley City State during her first career collegiate game on Nov. 11, 2017, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“In high school, I was always a part of sports teams that were successful, so coming here was different for me,” Bachmann said. “It’s been a process, obviously. … But it’s been special to see the program go from losing a lot -- not really an excited program -- to where we are today.”

Bachmann and fellow fifth-year senior Sydney Zerr are the only active players to be a part of that season. But more pieces arrived in 2018-19, just in time for the Beavers’ shocking upset over top-seeded Concordia-St. Paul in the first round of the conference tournament.

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Bachmann was step one of the turnaround. That win was step two.

“She was told (her role in the rebuild) as a recruit and felt it out as a freshman,” DeVille said. “She realized what the real work looked like and took over, both on and off the court.

“You don’t see her work ethic all the time. No one does. Sometimes I don’t even see it as a coach. … She doesn’t need the limelight, she isn’t going to put it on social media. She’s just going to get work done.”

Linchpins from near and far

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Bemidji State senior Brooklyn Bachmann (fourth from left) cheers from the bench during a game against Winona State on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

Bachmann is a central piece to the revival, but she’s not alone responsible for it.

BSU went to Wisconsin to find Trinity Yoder, a relentless defender who joined in 2018-19. A year later, the Badger State also produced Rachael Heittola, who first put on a Bemidji State jersey in 2019-20 and immediately became one of the strongest centers in the league.

In the same timeline, key cast members like Hermantown’s Taylor Vold, Staples’ Claire Wolhowe and Missouri’s Coley Rezabek came along. They were all part of a 10-6 campaign in 2020-21 -- the program’s first winning season since before any of them were born.

That was step three, and perhaps the biggest of them all.

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Bemidji State senior Brooklyn Bachmann (12) blocks a 3-pointer from Wayne State’s Logan Hughes (42) in the second half on Saturday, Jan. 29, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer

“You can put that on the coaches,” Bachmann said. “They do a really great job recruiting girls who are similar, who they know will click together in basketball and off the court.”

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That 25-year gap between winning seasons is already history, but it can become ancient after Wednesday. The Beavers (13-12) need one more victory to secure a plus-.500 season, which would clinch the program’s first back-to-back winning campaigns since 1996.

“On the court, we obviously have our highs and lows. And I’ve had those, as well,” said Bachmann, now an all-conference selection and a 1,000-point scorer. “But the coaches just trust me. … Their influence impacts us a lot.”

Bachmann will now lead Bemidji State into the postseason one final time. They’ll host Winona State at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 23, inside the BSU Gymnasium in the opening round of the NSIC Tournament. It’s the team’s first home playoff game since 2004.

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Bemidji State senior Brooklyn Bachmann runs back on defense during a game against St. Cloud State on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022, at the BSU Gymnasium.
Micah Friez / Bemidji Pioneer

“Having a home game is something we earned, so let’s go enjoy it,” DeVille said. “We don’t know how many more games we have together. It’s basketball, so let’s just go have fun and enjoy it together.”

DeVille called this Bachmann’s program, one that Bachmann built from the ground up. And step four is whatever comes next.

“Bemidji is more of a people than a place,” Bachmann said. “The friends I’ve made, the relationships I’ve made, that’s stuff that’ll continue even when we’re gone.”

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
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