Two local student-athletes recently announced that they will continue their athletic careers with the Division I University of Idaho Vandals.
Skylar Bea, a Washougal High School junior, has given an oral commitment to join the Vandals’ women’s basketball team in 2021, while Irelyne McGee, a Camas High School senior, signed a letter of intent to become a member of Idaho’s women’s swimming and diving program this fall.
The Moscow, Idaho, university was the first choice for Bea and McGee, both of whom had other college programs interested in their services.
“The fact that my sister (Beyonce Bea, a 2019 Washougal high graduate) plays there was one of the biggest reasons,” Bea said of her Idaho decision. “I’ve been (to Moscow). I’ve watched a lot of their games. I like the way they play. I like the campus. I like the coaches. Idaho has all of the things that I was looking for academically. I thought it would be a good fit.”
“Pretty much from the beginning of (my recruiting process), I was all about Idaho, which was my top school for academics,” McGee said. “When I visited the campus, I met the coaches, watched a meet and interacted with the (swimmers and divers), and everybody was super nice. The pool was beautiful. Everything about it, I liked.”
Bea established herself as one of the region’s best players during the 2019-20 season, averaging 12 points, 10 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.5 blocks per game while shooting 40 percent from the field.
“She has amazing athleticism and quickness,” Panthers girls basketball coach Britney Ervin said. “She’s unselfish on offense, always working to create shots for her teammates. She’s got a great nose for (rebounds), and she’s one of the best defensive players I’ve ever coached. She takes advantage of her length to get deflections, tips, steals and blocked shots. At the Division-I level, she could have an immediate impact on the defensive end, and once she gains confidence in her outside shot, she’s going to be able to contribute in a lot of ways.”
Bea has mostly played inside for the Panthers due to her height (5-foot-11), but is capable of playing multiple positions. Her versatility appealed to Vandals coaches, who will most likely ask Bea to shift to a wing spot.
“I like to rebound, play defense and make hustle plays,” Bea said. “I take a lot of midrange shots and drive to the basket, but I’d like to improve my outside shooting. I’ll have to get out of the key and play more out on the perimeter, but whatever the team needs me to play, I can play. At the college level, the players are faster and stronger, so I also want to improve my strength and conditioning.”
Bea, who has been a member of the Vancouver-based ABA Elite Basketball club for the past five years, is looking forward to being reunited with her older sister. After being named as the 2A state player of the year during her senior season at Washougal High, Beyonce Bea flourished during her first season at the University of Idaho, averaging 12.6 and 5.8 rebounds per game en route to third-team all-Big Sky Conference honors.
“I liked playing with Beyonce in high school,” Skylar Bea said. “She helped me a lot. I thought it would be a good experience to play together for another two years.”
Bea is enrolled in Clark College’s Running Start program, has a 4.0 grade-point average and also plays volleyball and tennis for the Washougal Panthers. She intends to study biology or exercise science at Idaho, then enroll in a dental school.
“She’s very humble, and such a hard worker,” Ervin said. “She has certain expectations of herself, and she works hard to live up to them. She’s constantly never satisfied, and the fact that she’s always working to get better speaks to who she is. She’s so likable, and everybody respects her because she leads by example.”
McGee, of Camas, finished her high-school diving career with a fifth-place finish at the 4A state meet last November, improving on her sixth-place performance at the 2018 state meet.
“She’s put Southwest Washington diving on the map,” Camas girls swimming and diving coach Mike Bemis said. “I’m pleased with the effort that she’s shown during the last two years. That’s a big commitment for her and her family to drive an hour (to Kelso) and back two, three, four times per week for practice. She really improved her commitment (level) and ability to believe in herself.”
McGee started diving when she was 11 years old in Colorado, where she grew up. McGee’s family moved to Camas during her freshman year in high school.
“I loved diving as soon as I started, even though there have been moments when I haven’t liked it as much,” she said. “I definitely appreciate the mental strength that it takes to get over your fears. I like the adrenaline rush. Also, it’s just fun; I’ve never had a bad experience on a dive team. My teammates have always been super positive people to be around, and that’s helped me a lot.”
In 2019, she temporarily lost her passion for the sport, a burnout mostly caused by the various aches and pains that she had sustained during her earlier high school years.
“Coming into high school, I was pretty set on diving in college, but junior year I decided I didn’t want to (continue past high school),” she said. “I was in gymnastics, and everything hurt — my whole body, all the time. I couldn’t imagine keeping up with a sport past my senior year. But this year I gave up gymnastics, and my body felt so much better. (Diving in college) felt reasonable again.”
McGee, who has been a member of the Tualatin, Oregon-based Tualatin Hills Swim Club for the past four years, described her diving style as “more graceful than powerful.” Bemis agreed with that assessment, but added that she should get stronger in college.
“She’s doing top-quality dives now, and she has the ability to go to a higher degree of difficulty when she gets to college and gets more consistent board time,” Bemis said. “She will not only be able to add higher-quality dives, but also perfect the dives that she already has.”