A lanky 6-foot 1-inch forward with long arms, Mikayla Barondeau's reach extends way beyond the basketball court.
Her numbers speak loudly about her athletic ability, but the Northern State senior women's basketball player from Frederick impacts more than just the opposition.
The university is better because of Mikayla, said NSU athletic director Bob Olson. She has spoken at scholarship events and co-hosts the weekly Tracking the Wolves television show. She represents herself so well. It's bigger than just athletics. She is unbelievable to be around. She's one of those people that make your program better.
Barondeau is often the first player to arrive before games or practices, and one of the last to leave.
She's been very dedicated to the women's program here at Northern, said NSU women's basketball coach Curt Fredrickson who has more than 700 career wins in 33 seasons. Her work ethic has been great for our young players to follow. She spends a lot of time in the gym and keeping herself in shape. She's a real class act as a student and also very versatile off the court. She has been a great representative for our women's basketball program.
Family of athletes: Barondeau grew up in a coaching family just 25 miles north of Aberdeen. Her father Randy Barondeau currently serves as an administrator and coach at Frederick and her mother Janelle Barondeau is a teacher and coach there also.
Growing up, I never really knew anything else, said Mikayla, who scored her 1,000th career point on Friday against Augustana College. That was the way it was. When I was younger, I was coached by my parents or other girls' parents. In the summers, my parents left us alone athletically to do whatever we wanted. That's why I still love sports in the summers and doing it because you want to. That's why I ran so much in the summer.
Barondeau took advantage of the opportunity to learn from her parents and become a true student of sports whether basketball or distance running.
If there is something you don't understand, you can go home and ask questions. I wanted them to explain it one more time and tell me why. I like full explanations and thinking things through, said Mikayla.
Fredrickson saw a basketball player: When it came time to choose a college, Barondeau discovered NCAA Division I and II schools were interested in her for distance running. Northern State was one of the few Division II schools that looked at her as a basketball player. Both of her parents attended Northern and played basketball.
We recruited Mikayla hard out of high school, said Fredrickson. I knew her dad (from Onaka and Cresbard High School) through track and her mother (from Wolsey) played for me. Janelle was one of the better three-point shooters at Northern.
Janelle knew first hand what Mikayla could expect from Fredrickson and his large playbook.
She said he was a great coach and that he would push me to really improve, said Mikayla. She said not to expect a lot of playing time when I was younger, but that you had to earn it. He always has new plays and adds wrinkles every year. Every year, it's a new playbook and you're never done learning.
Barondeau was a fast study as she started 20 of 27 games as a true freshman at NSU. Her achievements now include coming back from two knee surgeries to play in her final season.
Surgery has made things tougher for her, said Fredrickson. Her senior year hasn't been roses. Two years ago as a sophomore, she was one of the most dynamic players in the league as far as rebounding and scoring. It usually takes longer than one season to get completely healed, but unfortunately she only had one left.
Barondeau admits the injury is frustrating. There are certain things that I'm not able to do that I used to be able to do. The hard part was I was almost back to competing and I tore the meniscus and had a second surgery in June, she said.
Memories important, not numbers: When her Northern career is completed, Barondeau won't dwell on the numbers.
It's all the people I've gotten the opportunity to meet, and to compete with a special group of girls on the basketball, track and cross country teams, she said. Scoring 1,000 points is a big deal when you're younger. When you get older there's more to the game than points and it makes the accomplishment seem small. It's the relationships you make in the game.
Barondeau has forged many memorable relationships in her time at Northern.
Mikayla is one of those young ladies in athletics that you are just so proud of, said Olson. She has a high trust level and is low maintenance. She's just quality. I love the way this young lady goes about everything in and out of athletics.