Leading The Nation

Natalie Diaz ’19 says she is living the Dominican dream and now she is leading the nation in scoring in NCAA Division II women’s basketball.

A star player on the Penguins’ women’s basketball team, Natalie, a Business Administration major, is averaging 31.6 points per game thus far this season, tops among all players in NCAA Div. II and the Pacific West Conference through games of December 10. She scored a career-high 41 points on November 29 and followed that performance with a 37-point effort on December. Dominican has won six consecutive games and Natalie has earned PacWest Player of the Week honors two weeks in a row. That feat earned Natalie several mentions on KCBS Radio sportscasts on December 5 and a mention in the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Natalie is having success off the court as well. Thriving on the individualized attention she has received at Dominican, Natalie recently started an internship with Parnell Pharmaceuticals Inc. of San Rafael in advertising and product management. Prior to that, she served a marketing advertising internship with Dibble and Dibble in Novato.

“Dominican is a small university, but there are so many opportunities,” Natalie says. “Whether it has been coaches, teammates, or faculty, people here have always given me a little push or nudge and encouraged me to pursue the opportunities.”

Last season Natalie was named Pacific West Conference Co-Player of the Year D2CCA All-West Region First Team , WBCA All-American Honorable Mention and Scholar-Athlete of the Year in women’s basketball in the PacWest, the first female student-athlete at Dominican to earn such an honor. Then, on October 30 of this year, Natalie was named Preseason PacWest Player of the Year.

Natalie is now 149 points from breaking Alisha Flaaten’s DUC career scoring record of 1,565 points set in 2010. Jennifer Rogers Fernandez, an NAIA All-American and inductee into the inaugural class of the Dominican Athletics Hall of Fame, held the previous record of 1,487 set in 1995 before Flaaten passed her on Feb. 18, 2010. Natalie, if she remains healthy and on her scoring pace, could pass Alisha during home games vs. Hawaii Pacific on Jan. 2, Chaminade on Alumni Day on Jan. 5 or Biola on Jan. 10.

From Soquel near Santa Cruz, Natalie first came to Dominican on whim. She and her father, Fred, were on their way home from a basketball recruiting trip in 2015 when they turned off the freeway and decided to attend a Dominican women’s basketball practice unannounced.

Natalie officially introduced herself to head coach Tim LaKose, who had been recruiting Natalie by telephone. Coach LaKose introduced her to the team, including two of his key players, Jessy Marshall and Carly Holboke, who gave Natalie a night tour of campus immediately following their practice.

“I remember my dad and I got back in the car and he looked at me and said, ‘I really like this place’ and I responded, `Me, too.’ ”

Natalie, a two-time member of the Pacific West Conference All-Academic team, is now following the footsteps of Jessy and Carly.  Natalie, in her freshman year, joined Jessy in an internship in Dominican’s marketing department. Natalie also interned with Dibble and Dibble where Carly interned and is now working full-time as project manager.

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Natalie’s decision to study Marketing was inspired by a Business Communications course she took with Dr. Christopher Leeds as a sophomore. It was Dr. Leeds who encouraged Natalie to interview for the internship at Dibble and Dibble. He also arranged for Natalie to interview entrepreneur Leslie Blodgett, founder and CEO of bareMinerals, on stage when she spoke at Dominican in October 2017 in an exclusive Barowsky School of Business lecture hosted by the Francoise O. Lepage Center for Global Innovation.

Last season Natalie, who was selected as a team captain for the basketball team as a freshman, concluded her third year as a member of the Penguin Student Athlete Advisory Committee. She also represented Dominican at Pacific West Conference SAAC Retreat in Oakland.

Natalie finished the regular season in women’s basketball last year as the leading scorer in the PacWest Conference and fifth in the nation in NCAA Division II with an average of 23.9 points per game. She is grateful for all that Dominican has meant to her.

“If this school wasn’t the size it is, I don’t think I would have had the opportunities I have had,” she says. “I have been able to be one on one with the professors. I have had friends who could put me in positions to succeed. It’s the tight knit community at Dominican that really led me to be successful.”

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