Neither Madison Farren nor Garey Smith could immediately connect the dots in their first meeting. They found their way to the same destination nonetheless.
Eight months after meeting the Grand View University women's basketball coach at a rehab clinic in Nevada, Farren signed her National Letter of Intent on April 10 to continue her basketball career with the Vikings.
The Colo-NESCO senior chatted with Smith while rehabbing from knee surgery, but didn't realize exactly who she was talking with until later. The same was true for Smith.
Colo-NESCO senior Madison Farren, seated, signed her National Letter of Intent on April 10 to continue her basketball career at Grand View University. Also present were Vikings coach Garey Smith, left, and her parents Julie and Mark Farren.
"I knew that he coached somewhere but I didn't necessarily put two and two together," Farren said of her first encounter with Smith at 21st Century Rehab. "He talked to me about basketball and afterwards I realized he was the (Grand View) coach. It's kind of funny how things turn out."
At least a couple factors helped point Farren toward her Des Moines destination.
Two of her older sisters - Kira and Kylee - attended Grand View and told Smith to keep an eye out for their younger sibling on the hardwood. The Viking coach saw Farren and the Royals firsthand against CMB in December and came away impressed with the senior's toughness inside.
Even though that's not the primary place the 5-foot-9 senior will spend her time on the floor at Grand View, her competitive streak showed Smith all he needed to see.
"She's competitive as the devil," Smith said. "When you see somebody with that kind of size who bangs the boards the way she does, if they're pretty good athletes you try to find them a place to play."
Though shorter than many of her opponents inside, Farren led the Royals with 7.6 rebounds a game in addition to 8.5 points, while also swiping 60 steals. The two-year starter averaged 7.7 points and 6.8 boards as a junior with another 57 steals and finished as the third-leading rebounder in school history, helping the Royals earn back-to-back trips to the state tournament with a combined record of 47-5.
Farren will focus on improving her ballhandling skills and perimeter game before the fall as she'll transition to a guard or wing position with the Vikings. Though she won't abandon the paint altogether.
"What she does (in the paint) will help her in playing a 1, 2 or 3 for us because we post everybody up," Smith said. "It's going to be a little different because now she's going to be the one looking to get the ball inside and looking to break the defense down and get inside them to either go to the rack or pass it off."
Farren, who also considered suiting up in blue again at Luther College or hanging up her sneakers to join her twin sister McKenna at Northern Iowa, found several more reasons pushing her toward Grand View.
"I liked how it was close enough for my parents to come to the games and be there to support me," Farren said. "I also liked the environment at Grand View, everyone was welcoming and it's such a growing campus. I'm excited for the educational opportunities as well."
One of just 25 girls selected to the Iowa Basketball Coaches Association academic all-state team this spring, Farren also had her future in mind for life after school and basketball.
"Being in Des Moines, there's so many opportunities for an internship and that's important to me," she said, "being able to get my foot in the door for a job so after college I have an opportunity for a career."
The three-year class president and four-year National Honor Society member proved her work ethic both on and off the floor at Colo-NESCO.
"She's a blue-collar, hard-nosed worker," Royals coach Wayne Cafferty said. "She's a very coachable kid that will be an asset to the program. She'll do what they ask of her and she'll give her best effort."
Grand View finished 12-14 overall last season and 5-7 in the Midwest Collegiate Conference, though the school has had plenty of success under Smith who enters his 15th season at the helm. Smith has led the Vikings to the NAIA National Tournament four times including a pair of Elite 8 trips in 2009-10 and 2011-12.
Reflecting back to that first encounter with Farren, Smith admits he had to double-check with a physical therapist for the name of the athlete he had chatted with. Names aside, the Viking coach recognized a hard-working individual and encouraged her to attend a game at Grand View.
Farren did in February and the rest is history.
"What we look for is people with a competitive nature and she's got that," Smith said. "I told her to come and watch us play and she did, that worked out pretty well."