Washougal basketball great Beyonce Bea heads to WSU

After 4 years at Idaho, 2019 WHS grad looks forward to playing in home state

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2019 Washougal High School graduate Beyonce Bea (left) stands with Washington State University women's basketball coach Kamie Ethridge in May 2023. Bea, who has played basketball for the University of Idaho Vandals for the past four years, will join the Cougars' women's basketball team for the 2023-24 season. (Contributed photo courtesy of Beyonce Bea)

Beyonce Bea is leaving the University of Idaho, but staying in the Palouse for her final season of college basketball.

Bea, a 2019 Washougal High School graduate, announced on Tuesday, May 16, that she will join the Washington State University (WSU) women’s basketball program for the 2023-24 season.

“It’s a great program that’s gotten better and better every year under coach (Kamie) Ethridge,” she told The Post-Record. “During my visit, I (got along with) the girls on the team, and that’s a big part for me. And also, just getting to play from my home state, staying close to my family and friends so they can come to games and visit me, was a big bonus for sure. It just seemed like the best opportunity in terms of how their playing style fits me, and the best chance to play at the next level in my last year.”

The Pullman, Washington-based Pac-12 school, which is fewer than 10 miles away from the Idaho campus in Moscow, Idaho, announced the signing on Thursday, May 18.

“At Idaho, Beyonce established herself as the premier scorer in the highly respected Big Sky Conference,” Ethridge said. “Her leadership skills, work ethic, experience, maturity and toughness are extremely impressive. Her skill set is one we expect will mirror that of vacated Coug great and graduate, Ula Motuga. Beyonce’s ability to score is impressive. She can shoot the 3-pointer, has a tremendous high-post game, and can both score and defend with her back to the basket.”

Bea entered the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division-I “transfer portal” in mid-April, about a week after the Vandals parted ways with longtime coach Jon Newlee.

“Originally, I was planning on staying at Idaho for my fifth year,” said Bea, who along with many other collegiate athletes around the United States was granted an extra year of athletic eligibility by the NCAA due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I had a great experience there with my team and the school. But ultimately, there was a coaching change, and it was so late in the process that it kind of put our team in a tough spot (because) we didn’t know who the coach was going to be, and there was nobody recruiting for us for a little bit, so it kind of just seemed like a good idea to put my name in the portal just in case. And then from there, I just weighed my options. It was always an option to come back to Idaho. But ultimately I decided, ‘I’ve been here for four years, and I’ve loved it, but maybe this next year (I should) try something new and grow my game a little bit and see what I can do at the next level.’”

Bea said that her decision, which was made on Monday, May 15, “was really tough.”

“It was hard to leave (Idaho). My sister and my cousin are on the team, and the other girls are my best friends as well, and (I’ll miss) everyone else on campus that I got close to after four years,” she said. “I think the biggest thing for me was feeling like there were things I still wanted to accomplish at Idaho in terms of winning the regular season (Big Sky championship), going into the NCAA Tournament, things like that. But at the end of the day, it was still a really good experience, and I’m thankful for it. But I also didn’t want to give up this opportunity (at WSU), either.”

Bea capped her Vandals career in dominant fashion, finishing as the sixth-highest scorer in NCAA Division-I during the 2022-23 season, averaging 22.8 points per game.

“I set goals like that for myself, but to actually get there last year was really special for me,” she said. “I didn’t think I would be top 10 nationally in scoring, but I’m really thankful for that.”

She played in 116 games during her Vandals career, starting all but two of them. During her four seasons in Moscow, Idaho, she averaged 16.7 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, shooting 44.8% from the field. She was named as an all-Big Sky Conference third-team selection during her freshman season, and earned first-team all-conference honors during her sophomore, junior and senior campaigns.

“Each year, I came in with new goals for myself and for the team, and I really used those summers to grow and work on my weaknesses,” she said. “I was seeing that improvement every year, and that was something I was really striving for. Just having the opportunity to be able to play, too, really helped. Getting those minutes and that experience on the court really helped with my confidence.”

Ethridge said that Bea’s “versatility, fundamentals and work ethic are outstanding.”

“Beyonce is more than ready to help our team reach new heights,” Ethridge said. “She will play the ‘stretch four’ position for our 2023-24 squad, and I am confident in her ability to impact winning. Beyonce is a perfect addition to our program both on the court and off. She truly exemplifies the title ‘exceptional student-athlete,’ and I can’t wait to see her competing in a Coug uniform.”

The Cougars are coming off a historic 2022-23 campaign, winning the Pacific-12 Conference tournament for the first time in program history and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.

“I’ve gotten to play against bigger teams with Idaho and have seen them up close,” said Bea, who considered the University of Utah, the University of Nebraska and Texas Christian University along with WSU. “Honestly, the fact that when I went to the portal and got so much (interest) and support from these programs kind of helped me realize that these coaches believe I can play at this level and be successful.”

Bea said that her sister, Skylar, a rising junior, and cousin Jaiden Bea, a rising sophomore, will remain at Idaho, where they will play for new coach Carrie Eighmey.

“We all got to meet the new coaching staff, and we think that they are great and that they’re going to do a good job over there,” she said. “I’ll be rooting for them. Actually, I’m not even moving. I’m just going to stay in my apartment (in Moscow) with my sister and just drive back and forth.”

Bea graduated from Idaho in early May with a Bachelor of Science degree in exercise science. She told The Post-Record that while she aspires to eventually attend pharmacy school or medical school, she hopes to pursue a professional basketball career, most likely overseas, at the conclusion of the 2023-24 campaign.

“Obviously, (the Pac-12) is a bigger conference, and there are a lot of great players and great programs,” she said. “It’s a tough conference all the way from top to bottom. Every game, you’re getting to really play against some of the best talent, and that’s how you get better. (Playing at WSU will be) great exposure (for my future endeavors).”

Bea played at Washougal High from 2016-19, leading the Panthers to a 2A state championship during her senior season. She is the program’s all-time leader in points (1,761), rebounds (1,037) and blocks (234).