Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Junior hooper Rylee Nudell is living out her Bison dream.
When looking at the criteria that make up a model student-athlete, it’s a two-fold approach. First, they must excel in the classroom and put their academics at the forefront of their lives. Secondly, not only are they successful within the field of competition, but they also uphold the values of their institution in everything they do. In that sense, junior Rylee Nudell is the model Bison student-athlete.
If you were to ask her, that’s all she has ever wanted to be.
“For me, it was because it was close to home, and growing up, I had always wanted to be a Bison,” the Buffalo, North Dakota, native said in regards to her choosing NDSU to further her academic and athletic career. “I had seen the culture they were building on, and I’ve always wanted to be a part of that.”
Nudell committed to Maren Walseth and the Bison after one of the most lucrative high school careers North Dakota has ever seen. At Maple Valley High School, she set the state’s all-time scoring and rebounding mark. Her 3,458 points and 1,761 rebounds have yet to be surpassed by another North Dakota player. Given those marks, it’s no surprise she caught Walseth’s attention. Conveniently, Nudell had her eyes on North Dakota State long before she became a prep hoops legend.
There are other reasons for student-athletes to come to NDSU, according to Nudell. The women’s basketball roster has a diverse group of young women who hail from all areas of the globe. In fact, some have come from different countries to compete on the hardwood for the Bison.
“For Cirkeline [Rimdal] or Michelle [Gaislerova], coming from overseas, when they came or the coaches were talking to them, they realized the culture, the size of the college. I mean, Raquel [Terrar van Gool] came here because of what the schooling offered her; she wants to be an engineer,” said Nudell when asked why student-athletes travel from all corners of the globe to come to NDSU. “That had a little bit to do with it, so it’s what the university offers along with the culture and the same things I saw in it.”
It has certainly worked out for Nudell and the Bison women’s team. Currently, they field one of the most cohesive and solid cores of NDSU hoopsters. With only one senior on the roster, Nudell and her junior class have become the leaders on and off the floor. It is also apparent that the lady Bison have plenty of fun when they step onto the court with one another. This is a direct result of how close of friends each of these girls is with one another. In other words, they have bought into Walseth’s culture.
“We’ve had to rely on each other and hold each other accountable. No matter what the previous day had in store for us, we have to come and bring the energy and think of it as a whole new day.” – Rylee Nudell
“The upperclassmen are the people that have to set that standard and talk to the underclassmen. Tell them to push through things and let them know where we were at one time and that it’s going to get easier, it’s going to get better,” she said about buying into the team and being a leader. “Be there to encourage them whether it’s basketball, school, and then everything will get easier from there. It’s about getting past that breaking point.”
That is not to say adversity has been absent. Each season sees faces come and go and different ebbs and flows as the long season wears on. This season, the women’s team has been forced to play with only eight girls on a game to game basis due to injuries to some vital assets. However, Nudell and the rest of the Bison look to one another to stay energized and work through the various obstacles during the season. “It is really hard, but right now there are only eight of us that can play, so we’ve had to rely on each other and hold each other accountable,” she said. “No matter what the previous day had in store for us, we have to come and bring the energy and think of it as a whole new day.”
Nudell has been a needed presence for the Bison since her freshman season in 2016. She played in 30 and 29 games respectively in each of her first two seasons in Fargo. Of those 59 games, she started 54 of them. So far in 2018-19, she has started in every game for NDSU. She has also been successful in those games, consistently making an impact for the Bison.
In her first two seasons, she shot a scorching 50 percent from the field and a wildly efficient 37 percent from long range. In turn, she averaged close to 10 points per game for NDSU last year. She has continued that efficient play so far this season, hovering near 10 points per game so far. Regardless of if the ball falls through the net or not, Nudell continues to have the same mindset offensively: it is one of visualization.
“I honestly try not to think about it, if the ball is going through the rim or if the ball isn’t,” Nudell said. “I just think of all the times I have seen it go through the rim when I shoot it. I visualize it going through the rim, so I try to just keep going whether it is or whether it isn’t.”
All of that pales in comparison to Nudell’s academic accomplishments. In her two seasons, she has been named to the Summit League Academic Honor Roll. Also, she was on the Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence last season. She is sure to be a member of those lists as her junior season concludes. She is also on the NDSU Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC).
All of these academic accolades stem from a passion for her major, elementary education. Her mother, Rhonda, is a fifth-grade teacher in Valley City, which is only 26 short miles from Buffalo. Rylee frequently returns to Buffalo and is a recurring guest in her mother’s classroom in Valley City. In fact, she was heading back Mrs. Nudell’s class after our interview and photoshoot with her.
It’s clear that Rylee Nudell has made a tremendous impression in her time at NDSU. Not only has she been valuable for the Bison on the floor, but off it as well. Her commitment to being a true student-athlete is a model for fellow NDSU student-athletes and even student-athletes from other universities. While she will no doubt have an impact after her days at NDSU, she continues to be an exemplary Bison student-athlete.
Nudell grew up wanting to be a Bison, and she conquered that goal. She strives to be the best she can be each day, and she has clearly done that so far. Therefore, she is truly living her Bison dream every single day.