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Q&A: Ellie Croco on her decision to transfer to WWU

The Oregon native spent three seasons at Saint Mary’s College before Western presented her with a new opportunity

Ellie Croco warms up for a West Coast Conference Tournament game with the Saint Mary’s Gaels against Pacific University on March 3, 2023. She appeared in 74 career games, tallying over 200 points. // Photo courtesy of Todd Fierner via Ellie Croco

On April 25, the Western Washington University women’s basketball team announced the signing of transfer forward Ellie Croco. The six-foot-one senior from Lebanon, Oregon, played three seasons at the NCAA Division I level with Saint Mary’s College before tearing her ACL this past season. 

In her time as a Gael, Croco appeared in 74 games, averaging 10.8 points per game while shooting 39.3% from the field. In an interview with The Front, she walked through her time at Saint Mary’s and her decision to move her talents up to the Pacific Northwest.

Q: What led you to make the decision to transfer out of Saint Mary’s?

A: First of all, I was not sure if I would ever play basketball again. Tearing my ACL this past fall after already having PCL reconstruction on the same knee in high school made me concerned about continuing an athletic career. Throughout the season I was debating if I’d ever play again. 

Once the season was over, I had some distance away from the court and my physical therapy was progressing better than I thought. I realized that I still loved the game and wanted to play. I just wanted to do that somewhere else. 

Although I love the coaches who took over my last year at Saint Mary’s and the culture they’re building, I felt it was time for me to move on.

Q: How long was your transfer process and what did that look like?

A: Overall, it was very short. I knew I’d only transfer if it felt like a perfect fit, somewhere I could make an impact and somewhere with a good culture. I found that immediately at WWU. 

Q: Can you walk through your decision in choosing Western, what made it appealing?

A: I find WWU extremely appealing because it appreciates athletics, especially women’s sports. The culture of that is still hard to find at a lot of schools. I think coach [Carmen] Dolfo’s energy and the culture that she has built also influenced my decision to commit. The success of the women’s program and the culture also drew me to Western.

Q: How familiar with Western were you before you made the decision to transfer? 

A: I had definitely heard of Western before with its success in athletics. I also have a few family friends who are currently attending. I was somewhat familiar with the area. I’d never been to Bellingham but I have family in the San Juan Islands and Mount Vernon. 

Q: Did your pre-existing relationship with Aspen Garrison affect your decision to transfer at all? 

A: Aspen and I are great friends and I love knowing I’ll have someone on the team I’ve known for years. It's something that made me nervous about transferring to another school, and trying to integrate into a team that’s already established. That fear went away with WWU and knowing Aspen would be there. 

Q: How do you plan to use your experience at the NCAA Division I level to your advantage at Western?

A: Playing at the D-I level has put me in a lot of high-pressure situations. I have been a starter, on the bench, and injured on the sidelines and I know the challenges that come with each of those roles. Now, I feel I have more experience and maturity to handle the adversity that comes with playing. 

In addition to Croco, the Vikings signed Libby Stump from the University of Montana, bolstering a lineup that saw only two seniors graduate this past year. Last season, the Vikings won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament and lost in the second round of the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Cameron Riggers

Cameron Riggers is a sports and recreation reporter for The Front. He writes about the Western Hockey League for and can often be found at a rink around the Pacific Northwest. You can follow his work on Twitter/X @cammriggs and on Instagram @cammriggs1 and can reach him at

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