Feb. 4, 2009
Back on the Court
By Maggie Corwin '12
The buzzer echoes off the walls of Martindale Gymnasium as the Bearcats head onto the court for warm-up drills. Squeaking shoes, bouncing balls, and girls calling encouragement add to the din. Practice has begun. As I watch all of the excitement a tall girl runs up to me and introduces herself as Rickeya McElroy, a sophomore for the Bearcats. The first thing I notice is that she is very soft spoken. I switch on my digital recorder and hope that her voice will be picked up among all the background noise.
McElroy, a native of Columbus, Ohio, came to Northwest from Southeastern Illinois where her team finished fourth in the NJCAA national championships. Even with the success, she decided to take time off from the game.
"I was burned out," said McElroy, "I needed a break."
The break seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. McElroy had a contact on the Northwest men's basketball team who set her up with the Bearcat coaches and after a year off she is back in action.
"The first time I saw her you could see her sheer talent," said head women's basketball coach Gene Steinmeyer. "Though you possess talent doesn't mean you can play, however. The potential of unlocking her talent could be a big advantage for the team. But the advantage of college can open up a lot of doors for Rickeya to get her degree as well."
Coming back to the game seems to be natural for McElroy. After beginning the season on the bench, teammates' injuries presented her with the opportunity to be in the starting lineup.
"I hadn't really played college games before, so I was less experienced than some of my teammates," said McElroy, "It was difficult at first, but I got used to it."
Playing alongside juniors and seniors does not deter McElroy, who as a freshman in high school was put in the varsity lineup along with seniors.
Fellow teammate Meghan Brue got the chance to live with McElroy when she first arrived at Northwest.
"She was really quiet," said Brue. "She stayed with me for about a month, and she was very shy at first. Very polite and very nice, but quiet," Brue continued, "Rickeya is very athletic and she can make tough shots. She also has the height that the team is lacking."
Coach Steinmeyer seemed to be in agreement with Brue.
"Obviously she brings the one thing we don't have which is size," said Steinmeyer. "She also brings athleticism and an inside presence to the team. If she wants to be a leader, she needs to work on communication. But that's not unique to Rickeya. I have a lot of girls on the team that could be more vocal."
McElroy may be a quiet person, but don't let that trick you. She has proved that she can get the job done. McElroy has played in all 20 games to-date and averages 12.9 points per game and 5.5 rebounds per game. Her goals for this season are getting the seniors into the MIAA tournament and helping them secure a championship.
"I want us to make the tournament for the seniors because it's their last year," said McElroy. Her personal goals are working on her defense and getting more blocked shots.
Before McElroy rejoins her teammates for practice I ask her another question: what she thinks of being part of a team. She doesn't even hesitate before responding.
"It's cool. You have friends. You can depend on your teammates."
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