Assyrian blue. That was the answer JMU freshman forward Cheyenne Rowe gave JMU head coach Sean O’Regan when he asked her what her favorite color was during her recruiting process. Aside from her performance on the court, responses like these are what made O’Regan realize that Rowe was just the addition the Dukes’ women’s basketball team needed this year.
From representing Canada to Harrisonburg, Rowe joined the team just in time for its inaugural season in the Sun Belt Conference.
Rowe has shined on a big stage already in her basketball career. She represented Team Ontario in Canada from 2017- 19, and earlier this year, Rowe played on the U18 Canadian National Team and competed in the 2022 FIBA Women’s Americas Championship in Argentina. Standing at 6-foot- 2-inches, she averages about 12 points and 12 rebounds per game and shoots 75% from the free throw line.
Rowe said her experience playing in Canada wasn’t much different from playing at JMU. Being an international student, she said, college is dubbed as a big adjustment, but her first few months at JMU have been easily adaptable with her new support system on campus and on the court.
“It’s been easier than most people would think,” Rowe said. “I’m very lucky to be on such a great team, and everyone is very supportive. Whenever I needed anything, my teammates would help me out and that was just the best I could’ve asked for.”
Rowe found JMU during her Amateur Athletic Union season after a former teammate who’d also been looking at the school spoke highly of it. O’Regan said when he saw Rowe play at a tournament in Chicago, he knew that he wanted her on the team.
“I saw her and was like, ‘That’s exactly what I want in a post,’” O’Regan said. “The rebounding, pretty athletic, dirty work type of kid. We got her and her mom down for a visit, and she loved it. It wasn’t far after that when she said the words.”
O’Regan said Rowe is a hard worker who brings personality and effort to the team.
“Her favorite color isn’t just purple. That’s just who she is,” O’Regan said. “It’s a little bit extra, a little bit collectic. But she’s full of joy, always smiling.”
While on the court, O’Regan said Rowe’s rebounding skills set her apart. He said that quickly into practice this season, Rowe understood that if she rebounded, she’d get her chance to play.
JMU emphasizes rebounding in practice through competition: Whoever has the most rebounds at the end of practice gets to run one less sprint, and it’s kept track of on a whiteboard. Junior forward Claire Neff said Rowe’s competitiveness and energy sets her aside; every day, Rowe works to be the top rebounder on the team.
“That’s how she’s going to make her mark,” O’Regan said. “Defensively, she’ll grow, she’s a pretty good defender. On offense she’s done a really good job just finishing. That’s all I’ve really asked her to do is to not stray too far out of who you are offensively, and just rebound, and you’ll get your offensive chances.”
Neff said Rowe “is busting her butt” in every drill with a smile on her face the whole time. She said “determined” is the best word to describe Rowe.
Rowe has also gotten plenty of coaching from JMU assistant coach Kayla Cooper Williams, who played at JMU from 2015-20. Williams, who’s fourth all time at JMU in rebounding with 866 rebounds in her collegiate career, has been a source of advice for Rowe — she can’t wait to be able to play like Williams, Rowe said.
“I’m just trying to be coachable,” Rowe said. “I want to act like a sponge and just take everything in.”
O’Regan said he’s looking forward to seeing Rowe’s growth his year, both on and off the court. Her smarts show in the game, he said, and Rowe and the other freshmenare already confident players.
“She just has to grow and mature,” O’Regan said. “Not that she’s immature, but just to mature as a player. I’ve already seen some, but I think by the end of the season, there will be drastic changes.”