Washougal’s Beyonce Bea becomes a Vandal

Panther basketball star signs with University of Idaho

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The Panthers' Beyonce Bea officially signs a commitment to play Division 1 women's basketball for the University of Idaho Vandals next year, at a Nov. 16 signing event at Washougal High School. (Contributed photo courtesy of Jada Bea)

The Panther’s star senior basketball player is now officially a University of Idaho Vandal.

Beyonce Bea fulfilled her childhood dream of signing with a NCAA Division I program during a ceremony at Washougal High School on Friday, Nov. 16.

“It’s exciting and nerve-wracking because everything you’ve worked so hard for is suddenly real,” Bea said.

Adding to the excitement, two of Bea’s closest friends, who played on a club team that traveled the country over the summer, also just signed with Division I women’s basketball programs. Cassidy Gardner, of Prairie High, part of the Battle Ground School District, signed with Portland State University and Brooke Walling, also of Prairie High, signed with California State University, Fresno.

“I actually was able to watch my friends sign this week, so that was really cool,” Bea said.

The friendships began five years ago when Bea, Gardner and Walling started playing club basketball together. This summer, their team played some of the best high school basketball players in the country, traveling to Chicago, Las Vegas, San Diego and Louisville, Kentucky, for tournaments.

“We actually got to play a lot of top-ranked, Nike-sponsored teams, which was a really good experience for all of us to see top-level players and do well against them,” Bea said.

The senior’s signing ceremony coincided with the Panther’s first week of girls basketball practice, and Bea couldn’t be more excited for her final chance to win a state trophy for Washougal.

“We all have really high expectations. You know, it’s our fourth year in a row at state, which is awesome, but this year we want to do a lot more than just go to state,” Bea said.

One of the keys to the team’s ultimate success this season will hinge on the development of Bea’s leadership ability, according to Panther head basketball coach Brittany Knotts, who was a standout player at Mountain View and went on to play basketball for Chemeketa Community College in Oregon, and Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington.

“Her ability to be a strong leader is going to be a huge difference-maker for us this year,” Knotts said.

A rare, versatile talent

Bea is a rare talent, who can play any position on the floor, from point guard to center, creating a matchup nightmare for opposing teams.

Her former Washougal head coach, Brian Oberg, has compared Bea’s basketball style to that of the Seattle Storm’s all-star and WNBA’s most valuable player, Brianna Stewart.

Coach Knotts agrees.

“I think that’s a perfect comparison for her, because she can go inside, she can go outside and she’ll outwork anyone who is around her,” Knotts said of Bea.

Bea’s younger sister, sophomore Skylar Bea, who like Beyonce, started for the Panthers as a freshman, said her sister is a gold mine of basketball knowledge.

“It’s fun, because she teaches me all the stuff she’s learning and gives me new tips all the time, so I get to learn from what she’s experiencing,” the younger Bea sister said.

The girls’ cousin, Brevan Bea, who plays on Washougal’s boys team, describes Beyonce as someone who deserves all the accolades she is receiving.

“She’s really, really good and I mean really good because I’m just OK, but she’s really, really good,” Brevan Bea said.

Beyonce Bea was recruited by a long list of Division I colleges, but she chose Idaho because it was the place she felt most comfortable. Her family frequently vacations in Idaho and Bea said she loves the people and the country feel there.

“It just feels right,” Bea said.

Her mom, Jada Bea, couldn’t agree more.

“As a mom, I believe Idaho women’s basketball is a great fit because of their strong family culture,” Jada Bea said.

Knotts said the decision is a win-win for Bea and the University of Idaho.

“She’s going to be a big program changer for Idaho,” Knotts said of her star player. “She works so hard and has a lot of knowledge, and understands parts of the game that most high school players will never understand.”

Now that the long recruitment process is complete, Bea can concentrate on the task at hand — helping her high school team go all the way this season.

“I think we’re pretty good inside, and I’m really working hard to develop my three-point shot so we can stretch out defenses and be a threat from everywhere on the court,” Bea said.

The Panthers’ first game is an away game against Evergreen High, on Monday, Nov. 26.