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Wildcats' Pana Inks Professional Contract In Romania
Pana averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 rebounds for CWU in 2019-20. Photo by Matthew Breshears.
Pana averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.9 rebounds for CWU in 2019-20. Photo by Matthew Breshears.

Monday, June 21, 2021
by Central Washington Athletic Communications

ELLENSBURG, Wash. - Never underestimate the influence of your godparents.
 
Former Central Washington basketball star Alexis Pana didn't, and now she's made history as the first CWU women's basketball player to sign a professional contract. Pana inked a deal earlier this spring with Romania's CSM Alexandria. The former Wildcat leaves for Europe at the end of August.

"I don't think it's hit me yet," Pana said recently. "This is all I've ever really wanted to do since I was a kid."
 
An outstanding player during her four seasons with the Wildcats, Pana averaged 10.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game over the course of her career. She was twice named first-team All-Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
 
Pana, who played for the Wildcats from 2016-20, had to wait a year to chase her childhood dream after the COVID-19 pandemic impacted sports and travel around the globe. Pana had all but put her dream aside, until the reality of post-collegiate life – and a supportive family – gave her a push.
 
"At first, I wasn't sure it was ever going to happen," she said. "I sat around for six months and didn't do anything from a basketball standpoint. Then I decided I missed it. I was working an office job and I was a little bored."
 
Pana reached out to CWU head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley about helping her find an opportunity to play overseas. Richardson-Thornley in turn contacted Alaska-Anchorage head coach Ryan McCarthy, who has extensive experience sending players to Europe. McCarthy ultimately connected Pana with Guenther Muth of Get-A-Play sports management agency, setting in motion Pana's journey from CWU star to COViD sports casualty to professional athlete.
 
But getting an agent wasn't the end of Pana's journey. It was really just the beginning.
 
For Pana to hook on with a team she needed to be invited to, and participate in, a virtual tryout with the Eurobasket Summer League in Las Vegas. With an invitation in hand, Pana and other hopefuls played a series of games in May as coaches in Europe watched online. Pana's opportunity with CSM Alexandria came because of that camp, but her attendance at the event almost didn't happen. That's where family intervened.
 
"I wasn't really sure if I wanted to follow through on the opportunity," Pana said. "In April I went to Arizona to visit my godparents, and while I was there, my godfather really encouraged me to go to the camp and chase my dream. That was all I needed, and the rest is history, I guess."
 
Richardson-Thornley is understandably excited about the future for one of her former stars.
 
"I'm extremely proud of Lex," Richardson-Thornley said. "It's been such a blessing for me to see her transformation from her freshman season into becoming the young woman she is now. Lex is an exceptional talent. As a coach, you dream about a player like this being in your program. She deserves this opportunity."
 
While Pana earned this opportunity on her own merits, she knows it wouldn't be possible without her Central Washington family.
 
"Being the first women's basketball player from Central to sign a professional contract means a lot," Pana said. "Randi, over the years, helped build me into the player I am today, and the CWU athletic department took me in and treated me like family. It's not really about me, it's about all the other people who made this possible."
 
Pana's season with her new teams begins in September.

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