Where Are They Now: Cristina Willis
Throughout the summer, NAU Athletics will take a look back and catch up with former Lumberjack women's basketball players in a Where Are They Now series.
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – Cristina Campisano used to vacation in the White Mountains of Arizona every summer growing up, so coming to NAU was not much of a stretch for the San Diego, Calif. native.
"When we vacationed in the White Mountains, we would go through Flagstaff, so I felt comfortable with the mountains, the elevation and all the outdoor activities," Campisano said.
Cristina Campisano (formerly Willis), was a standout prep athlete in San Diego, earning CIF Player of the Year honors in 1989 and former Northern Arizona University coach Dave Brown took notice. In Brown, Campisano found a coach that she would love to play, only adding to the allure of playing at NAU.
"Coach Brown was great; he started recruiting me when I was pretty young and he came out to San Diego a lot," Campisano said. "When I went to visit, he was a lot like my dad and I felt like I could play for him."
After a strong debut season with the Lumberjacks, Campisano broke out the following year during the 1990-91 season. As a sophomore, she led the Lumberjacks in scoring and rebounding at 11.1 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and was poised to take her game to the next level entering her final two seasons. Campisano would be limited to eight games as a junior though as she recovered from a knee surgery, but still managed to post impressive numbers at 9.5 points and 6.2 rebounds despite playing less than 20 minutes a game.
She would finish her career on a high note though, as she averaged a career-best and team-leading 11.7 points per game in 1992-93 while serving as the team's co-captain with fellow classmate Cassandra (Cee Cee) Yancy. Campisano enjoyed her best game of her career versus Valparaiso that season, posting a career-high 33 points. Following the end of the season, Campisano received the inaugural Marie M. Rolle Award as the team's MVP, founded by the late Marie M. Rolle, supporter of NAU Basketball and Northern Arizona University as a whole.
"I was really honored and thankful," said Campisano on receiving the award. "I remember (Marie and her husband Joseph) would come to games. It was a great way to cap my NAU career."
Today, Campisano is married with three children and resides back in San Diego. She has taught at all levels from elementary to high school for the last 19 years and is currently an Education Specialist, splitting time between a middle school and high school. For Campisano, teaching was always in the cards for the physical education/elementary education double major.
"I declared my freshman year as a dual major," Campisano said. "I like working with the kids the most. I like being involved and helping them grow up to be community leaders."
Flagstaff remains a constant with Campisano and her family as they visit once a year. Between visits as well as catching games on television through NAU-TV and Fox Sports, she remains connected to the current Lumberjacks as well as her past.
"My kids have grown up visiting the Dome and I try to visit Coach Brown every couple of years," Campisano said. "I definitely still visit NAU. We also get the television station here in San Diego so I can still watch both men's and women's games."
After all these years, the family vacations haven't stopped, which is perfect because Campisano has nothing but fond memories of her time as a Lumberjack.
"All of my athletic experiences from traveling to my relationships with my teammates and coaches are the outstanding things I remember," Campisano said. "I loved the hikes and running in the woods and going up to Snowbowl. I loved everything about NAU."