There was never a question about Cassie Dumoulin attending the University of Illinois. That had always been the plan.
But playing basketball for the Fighting Illini's women's team wasn't always part of that plan.
Now it is.
Dumoulin, a Hampshire graduate and two-time Illinois Skyway Collegiate Conference Player of the Year from Elgin Community College, will play this season for the Illini and new coach Matt Bollant on a full scholarship.
"Any girl who loves basketball has a dream of one day playing at a big Division I school," said Dumoulin from Champaign Wednesday night. "It's still kind of a pinch-me moment for me. I feel really lucky and really blessed to have this opportunity."
In leading ECC to the ISCC championship this past season, Dumoulin averaged 22 points per game and was named a second-team NJCAA all-American. She scored 1,383 points in her two years at ECC after scoring over 800 for Hampshire in a four-year career that saw her lead the Whip-Purs to an 89-26 record. She was also a third-team all-American her freshman year, is the only player to ever win the ISCC Player of the Year Award twice and the only ECC basketball player to score over 1,000 career points.
Moreover, Dumoulin excelled in the classroom, carrying a 4.0 GPA at ECC, one of several factors that earned her the NJCAA's prestigious Lea Plarski Award at the end of the school year.
She will study civil engineering at Illinois, a school she says "is one of the top schools in the country for my major." Dumoulin's father, two uncles and an aunt are Illinois graduates.
Bollant, who came to Illinois after a successful run at Wisconsin-Green Bay that included an NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance in 2011 and a 69-4 record the last two seasons, lauded Dumoulin's work ethic.
"She's a great kid who will do whatever she's asked to do," he said. "We're trying to create cultures here and we want kids who work hard. Cassie is one of those kids. She was out there diving after balls today."
Dumoulin and Bollant each praised the efforts of ECC coach Jerry McLaughlin for his work in Dumoulin being more than just a student at Illinois.
"(McLaughlin) called me and sent me tape her on her and as I got to know him and then Cassie to see if it was a good fit, it became obvious it was," said Bollant, who was hired at Illinois on March 28, just 26 days after Jolette Law was fired.
"We needed some depth this season and she'll give us that. I'm excited to work with her and see her develop."
"I have to give (McLaughlin) credit," Dumoulin said. "He was very diligent and worked very hard in contacting the new coaching staff and then I sent an email to coach Bollant. Things were at a standstill for a little while but then a scholarship opened up and he offered it to me."
One of the hardest workers to ever play in the Fox Valley area, the 5-foot-8 Dumoulin hopes her work ethic will be a key factor as she competes for playing time in the Big Ten.
"I'm just going to work hard and give it my best effort," she said. "That's worked for me in the past."