When Des Moines Area Community College sophomore power forward Carlee Schuhmacher got off the plane at the Raleigh-Durham International Airport, she was not ready for what greeted her.
A man wearing Mr. Wuf's head, which is the mascot for NC State, pounced on her when she came around the corner. While it's against mascot etiquette to ever take the head off from the outfit, this one time did make sense. Mr. Wuf was unveiled as new NC State women's basketball coach Wes Moore, who arrived at RDU to meet the recruits visiting Sept. 6-8.
"He came around the corner and it just scared me because who would be in a Mr. Wuf suit in the middle of an airport at 11 p.m. at night?" Schuhmacher said. "Then he took it off, and I wasn't expecting him to be there. I was just laughing so hard. It was crazy and no one could believe it."
Schuhmacher had an impressive official visit and when Moore returned to Des Moines, Iowa, for the closing sell, the 6-foot-1 native of Watertown, Wis., became the third member of NCSU's class of 2014 last Thursday. Schuhmacher joins shooting guard Chloe Jackson of Upper Marlboro (Md.) Riverdale Baptist and center Akela Maize of Thomasville (N.C.) New Hope Christian.
"He [Moore] really wanted me and was super genuine," said Schuhmacher, who wants to get a master's in social work one day. "It felt right. I had such a great visits and no doubts about the school. I just felt like I needed to commit right away."
Schuhmacher averaged an impressive 16.2 points, 11.4 rebounds and 4.6 blocks per game, in helping DMACC to a 24-8 mark last year. She had 20 double-doubles in 32 games for coach Steve Krafcsin, who is quite familiar himself with the Triangle. Krafcsin played a year for coach Dean Smith at North Carolina before transferring to play for Iowa coach Lute Olson, where he helped the Hawkeyes reach the 1980 Final Four. He also knows NCSU men's basketball assistant coach Bobby Lutz, who was an assistant coach at Iowa State before coming to Raleigh.
Schuhmacher also officially visited Cleveland State, and earned offers from Loyola Chicago, Duquesne, Bradley, Utah State, South Alabama, Murray State, and North Dakota. Iowa State, Nebraska, Illinois, Drake, and Creighton, were also showing interest.
"She has a high motor," Krafcsin said. "She is incredibly all-in and has been focused on what she wants to accomplish, and has set her mind to do so.
"She has really long arms and scores well around the basket. Our offense last year was to get the ball to Carlee on the block or around the basket. Our second part of the offense was to shoot it, so Carlee can go get it."
Schuhmacher opened up the eyes of women's college basketball coaches with a successful showing at All-Star Weekend on July 25-28 at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Fla. NC State assistant coach Gene Hill started recruiting her, and fellow assistant Nikki West helped out.
Moore worked hard to overcome the fact that NC State isn't close to her home area.
"He was awesome and super passionate," Schuhmacher said. "I had a really good connection with him right off the bat. That was a big reason why I chose NC State.
"Coach Hill and Coach West were really down to earth. I could just hang out with them. They are really cool. It's like a family atmosphere."
NC State will be losing senior post players Markeisha Gatling, Lakeesa Daniel and standout power forward Kody Burke after this upcoming season. Schuhmacher, Maize and any other future recruits will get the chance to play right away.
"I have experience in college basketball, but I know that this level will be a lot more intense," Schuhmacher said. "I will be ready for it.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge, but I'm up for the challenge [of playing in the ACC]. I think everyone wants to turn that program around."
Schuhmacher had attended college football games at Wisconsin and Iowa State in the past, but was glad to watch NC State pull out a 23-21 win over Richmond on Sept. 7. Sophomore wing Ashley Eli was her host for the weekend, with an assist to sophomore Kaley Moser.
"It's a little different down there [in Raleigh], with the fans a little more insane," Schuhmacher said. "It was a cool environment. They were great hosts and were super cool. They showed me around and we got to hang out with the team."
Schuhmacher was also excited about talking to NC State athletic director Debbie Yow during his visit.
"She was amazing," Schuhmacher said. "I was familiar with her sister Kay Yow and she is a famous coach. It's so cool that she is an athletic director and one of the few women in Division I sports."
Schuhmacher has had to earn everything that has come her way through the years. She played basketball, soccer and volleyball at Watertown High. She averaged 13.2 points and 10.4 rebounds while blocking 78 shots her senior year.
Getting to the point of being such an impact player on the prep level wasn't easy. She lost about 60 pounds during her prep career to get ready for her senior season. She took that motivation to Des Moines Area C.C., and hasn't looked back.
"I just kind of played but I wasn't into it as I am now," said Schuhmacher about her first few years of high school. "Before my senior year, I lost a lot of weight and I started playing. My coach at Des Moines Area came and recruited me, and worked on my game, and I've gotten better both athletically and academically."
Schuhmacher recently clocked a team-best 6:35 in the mile, which was a further reminder of how far she has come athletically. She said she is the first member of her family to attend a four-year college.
"I would have done a 10-minute mile," said Schuhmacher on what she would have achieved two years ago. "It's just insane. Just being able to run the floor, I was just a huge player who couldn't run. Now, it feels like nothing when I run."
Krafcsin said running the floor is now one of Schuhmacher's greatest strengths, along with her 3.05 grade-point average.
"She runs and runs," Krafcsin said. "She is incredibly self-motivated."
Krafcsin remembers having to guard former NC State star Kenny Carr in his first college game ever in Greensboro, N.C. He looks forward to seeing how Schuhmacher does at historic Reynolds Coliseum.
"I told her how great the rivalry is with UNC," Krafcsin said. "She got to experience Iowa-Iowa State a little, but the Triangle is unbelievable. What a great opportunity it is going to be for Carlee."