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Selflessness, playoff dominance highlight legendary career of WWU’s Brooke Walling

Vikings senior post was pivotal in the best run in program history

Western Washington University's Brooke Walling is hoisted into the air March 4, 2023, after the Vikings defeated Montana State University Billings 76-71 to clinch the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championship at Carver Gymnasium. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)
By Connor J. Benintendi Sports Editor

As the clock ran out on Brooke Walling’s Western Washington University basketball career, she never wavered from her off-the-court role within the team: supporting her friends.

Walling and her teammates, overcome with emotion from a six-point, season-ending loss to Cal State San Marcos in the West Regional semifinals March 16, returned to their locker room at the Felix Event Center in Azusa, California.

In addition to being the most dominant player on the court most nights, Walling was also the “team mom,” as she put it. Walling consoled her teammates before sitting with her own thoughts.

“She’s the most selfless person that I’ve ever met,” said Vikings sophomore guard Mason Oberg, also a longtime friend of Walling. “She’s going to go out of her way for any one of us. Whether it’s on the floor or off the floor, she’s there for you emotionally.” 

But Walling still had to come to terms with another reality: Her playing career at Western was over — a chapter she regards as the three best years of her life.

Brooke Walling scoops up a layup.
Western’s Brooke Walling scoops a layup March 4, 2023, during the Vikings’ win over MSU Billings in the GNAC Championship. (Finn Wendt/Cascadia Daily News)

“I was kind of in shock for a bit,” Walling said. “When [head coach Carmen Dolfo] was talking to us in the locker room, I got pretty emotional myself, with it just kind of hitting me, like, ‘This is the last time I’ll ever wear a Western uniform.’ Just looking back and thinking, ‘Holy cow, it’s already been three years.’”

Walling’s outlook on the game from the beginning of her Western career to the end couldn’t be more different. Before the 6-foot-3 post transferred from Fresno State University ahead of the 2021–22 season, she had contemplated giving up basketball entirely. Her passion had evaporated.

“I just wasn’t happy at Fresno State,” Walling said. “I felt like I wasn’t really in an environment where I could grow to the potential I saw in myself.”

Then Oberg, who played AAU basketball with Walling through high school, recommended she come to Western. When Walling came to Bellingham for a visit, she committed on the spot.

“I’m so thankful I made that decision. I know a lot of people transfer and it doesn’t turn out to be any better than the situation they were in before,” Walling said. “But it was a million times better for me. I just had the best three years.”

In her three seasons with the Vikings, Walling lengthened the program’s active streak of NCAA Division II tournament appearances to four, led the team to its first-ever national championship appearance and built a reputation as arguably the most prolific postseason player the program has ever seen.

In addition to improving her statistical averages year after year, Walling had arguably the best game of her career in the biggest game in program history: the 2022 NCAA Division II National Championship. 

Western’s Brooke Walling hugs a teammate March 23, 2022, after the Vikings’ 74-68 victory over North Georgia in the NCAA Division II Final Four. Walling tallied 19 points, five rebounds and five steals. (Photo courtesy of Michael Wade/WWU Athletics)

After averaging 10.8 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists during the regular season as a sophomore, Walling had a game-high 27 points (12 for 16 shooting) and 12 rebounds to go along with four assists and a block in 34 minutes. 

Even though the team lost to Glenville State, 85-72, Walling put her stamp on history. She was named the West Regional All-Tournament MVP that season for her efforts in getting the team to the Sweet 16.

For her career, in nine total NCAA tournament games, Walling averaged 18.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.3 blocks and 1.9 steals per game while shooting nearly 60% from the field.

Dolfo, in her 33 seasons leading the team, has coached other greats like Celeste Hill, Gina Sampson and Taylor Peacocke. Walling’s consistency and overall impact in the postseason is second to none, Dolfo said.

“Brooke is at the top, for sure,” Dolfo added. “And when you think of how many years we’ve been doing this — I mean, she is definitely at the top.”

In Western’s all-time statistical ranks, Walling is an outlier. She is 14th in scoring (1,206 points) with only 88 games played, while the rest of the top-20 scorers in Western women’s hoops history averaged 115 games played in their careers. 

Western’s Brooke Walling goes up for a layup March 25, 2022, against Glenville State in the NCAA Division II National Championship. Walling finished with a game-high 27 points and 12 rebounds. (Photo courtesy of Michael Wade/WWU Athletics)

The same is true with rebounds. Walling is ninth all-time in total rebounds (762), despite being the only player in the top 10 to play just three seasons with the program. 

If she had one more 29-game season (her average games played over three seasons with Western) and averaged identical scoring and rebounding numbers that she did in 2023–24, she would be fourth all-time in both points (1,685) and rebounds (1,023).

“I’ve always told [Dolfo] I wish I would have just come here right out of high school,” Walling said. “But, when you throw Division I offers in the eyes of a 17-year-old, it’s hard to pass up.”

What really stands out is a non-hypothetical: Walling played 29.9 minutes per game in her Western career (fourth most all-time) and played in 88 of 90 possible games.

“It was hard to have her off the court,” Dolfo said. “It was, I mean, because she did it all, right?”

Western Washington University's Brooke Walling gets a highfive from teammate Maddy Grandbois after scoring her 1000th point.
Western’s Brooke Walling gets a hand from teammate Maddy Grandbois after scoring her 1,000th career point as a Viking on Jan. 27 during a 76-68 win over Montana State University Billings. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)

Walling admitted not reaching another national championship was a disappointment, especially after getting there in her first season with the Vikings. However, she still revels in that run and what it meant to the team, community and university.

“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but looking back it’s just crazy … we were the second-best team in the nation,” Walling said. “I’ve watched that game back over and over, and it still gives me goosebumps to watch it and just re-live that moment again.”

The team will still enter the 2024–25 season as back-to-back Great Northwest Athletic Conference champions. Walling ends her career as a two-time honorable mention All-American, a two-time first-team all-West Region selection and two-time unanimous first-team all-GNAC selection.

But that’s not all for Walling as a basketball player. She is currently in talks with an agent and plans to play professionally overseas. After being unsure whether she wanted to finish her collegiate career, Walling now doesn’t want to stop playing anytime soon.

“If you would have asked me three years ago, I would have been like, ‘No, when I graduate, I’m done playing basketball,’” Walling added. “But I’m not ready to be done yet.”

Connor J. Benintendi is CDN’s sports editor; reach him at; 360-922-3090 ext. 104.

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