SHORELINE — Rachel Strand knew her search was over.
Watching the Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball team practice earlier this year, the King’s High School senior felt at home.
“It was like, ‘This is where I’m supposed to be,’” Strand recalled telling herself.
So the two-time Chinook League Most Valuable Player followed her instincts and signed with Seattle Pacific in mid April, becoming the first spring recruit to commit to the defending Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions.
“She’s excited to be going to a program of that caliber,” King’s girls basketball coach Eric Rasmussen said. “She knows she has a challenge ahead of her to compete at the next level. But Rachel is the type of kid who will do whatever is necessary to do it.”
Strand visited three California schools before choosing Seattle Pacific.
“It came down to a lot of things,” Strand said. “I really like the atmosphere, I really like the school, the location … and there were so many God-sent coincidences, it showed me this is right. So that’s what I went with.”
Some family ties also factored into Strand’s decision. Both of her parents are SPU graduates and her grandmother taught nursing and served as the dean of health sciences at the college.
Another benefit of remaining in the area is the chance for Strand to keep tabs on her younger sister Sarah.
“One of the big reasons I wanted to stay is that my sister’s going to be a freshman next year,” Strand said. “I don’t want to be gone for all of her high school (career). And I want my family to be able to watch me.”
Strand averaged 16.4 points and more than seven boards a game for King’s this season and was a first-team, all-tournament selection at the Class 1A state championships the past two years. The Knights finished fourth at state in 2001 and took third at the 2002 tournament in March.
A 6-foot-1 forward who spent equal time patrolling the perimeter and post for King’s, Strand was impressed with Seattle Pacific’s up-tempo style.
“They push the ball down the court, which isn’t something we do (at King’s), but it’s something I want to do. So I’m really excited for that,” she said. “Everybody’s involved in the offense. They rotate through positions all the time. If you start on the inside, you’re going to move outside.”
The Falcons went 29-1 last season, their only loss coming to Cal State Bakersfield in the NCAA Division II West Regional championship game. Though four seniors — including three starters — will graduate, Strand isn’t sure where she’ll fit in the rotation.
“It depends on how hard I work this summer,” she said. “I know being a freshman I’m not going to get a lot of playing time, so I’m not banking on that.”
Rasmussen believes Seattle Pacific is a good fit athletically and academically for Strand, the salutatorian of her graduating class.
“Rachel has a lot of things going for her,” Rasmussen said. “She’s got great balance in her life.”