Leanna Tallamy can move a large bale of hay and toss a bag of corn with ease.
She never realized how much she missed life on the family farm in Wantage Township, N.J., until she could not make it home for the family-run rodeo in October 2011.
The Gordon (Mass.) College freshman also missed her family, which couldn't make it to most of her basketball games.
Gordon was 20 minutes from Boston and the beach, but more than five hours from home.
It added up to an unhappy Tallamy, who first talked about her feelings with Gordon roommate and basketball teammate Aly Towle.
She had a heart-to-heart lunch in the summer of 2012 with Jon Tallamy, her uncle and now principal at her high school — High Point.
Leanna then reached out to her High Point coach, Chris Dexter, who is married to former Muhlenberg College standout Lauren Boyle.
Boyle, Muhlenberg's third all-time leading scorer, called Mules coach Ron Rohn, who said he would do anything for Boyle.
Tallamy eventually transferred to Muhlenberg for the start of her sophomore season. A year later, she is the Centennial Conference's leading scorer and a candidate for player of the year honors.
It happened quickly, despite bumps on the back roads from Wantage Township, N.J., to Allentown, Pa. Many things had to work out for Tallamy to find happiness on and off the court, starting with Rohn's relationship with a former player.
"I had never seen [Tallamy] play," Rohn said. "I knew nothing about her. I wasn't sure if she would be good enough to make the team. But I was doing this as a favor to Lauren."
Joy and Duce Tallamy own a farm in Wantage Township, located in Sussex County in western New Jersey, that is larger than Muhlenberg's campus.
Leanna and her four younger siblings — Larissa, Lanae, Loree and Travis — worked on the farm, at produce and ice cream stands in front of their house and at the Sussex County Fair each August.
The eldest Tallamy sibling is the picture-perfect farm girl: strong, hard working and four shades darker than her friends every summer.
Leanna was a 1,000-point scorer and won two county titles for coach Dexter at High Point, but she thought she wanted to get away from that life. She loved the beach, so Gordon seemed like a good fit. She also wanted to help a budding program get to the level she enjoyed in high school.
But when the family's process of bringing a rodeo to its farm came to fruition in October 2011 and she couldn't make it back home, it left a huge void.
A short stay at home for Christmas added to her feeling of emptiness. Despite averaging a double-double in her freshman season at Gordon, she was tormented by the separation from her family and at accepting she made the wrong choice coming out of high school.
"I'm not the best at making decisions," she said.
After talking with her uncle and high school coach, Tallamy opted to transfer.
Dexter reached out to King's College in Wilkes-Barre and a few others. Tallamy visited King's and Ramapo (N.J.), two schools that recruited her out of high school. She liked King's and was ready to enroll there.