Zimmerman a key cogPublished 1:57pm Thursday, January 24, 2013
When freshman Elyse Zimmerman enrolled to attend Niles High School this year, girls basketball coach Pat Touhey knew his program was adding a key cog.
Touhey had coached Zimmerman several summers before, and had followed the young standout’s Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) career in the years that ensued.
After receiving the first nine years of her elementary and middle school education in Edwardsburg, Zimmerman arrived with an impressive basketball resume, with skills honed in the acclaimed South Bend-based MBA Select AAU program.
“She’s been groomed to be a very special player for quite some time now,” Touhey said. “When she elected to come to Niles this year as a freshman she felt, with respect to her basketball career, that this would be the place she could flourish most and have an opportunity to have a real positive experience around playing basketball for a high school team.”
Despite 11 straight losses to start the current season on a squad that features four freshmen — including Zimmerman — in the starting lineup, Zimmerman has no regrets about her transfer and already sees plenty of positives, as well as a bright future for the girls basketball program at Niles.
“We understand that we’re a young team and teams we play have a lot of juniors and seniors and played together for a really long time,” Zimmerman said. “We understand that we are going to get better as we get older and our skills are going to improve.
“We understand that even though we are losing now, by the time we’re juniors and seniors we’re going to win more games. We’re losing as a team and trying to stay together, stay positive and understanding that we are young. We just need to keep working hard to improve our skills.”
Standing barely 5 feet tall, the 14-year-old Zimmerman occupies the point guard position for the Lady Vikings and Touhey said the experience she has gained playing AAU basketball has allowed her to perform at a level beyond her years.
“She loves the game and it’s infectuous,” he said. “The other kids appreciate that about her. She is a very smart player, who has a very high IQ for the game and more like a coach on the floor, and it’s only going to get better.
“There are things she still needs to learn about the game, but there is so much she already knows because she has played it for so long and worked very hard at it for so long, that she has a different understanding of the game. She sees the game a lot different than the other freshmen. She’s been around the block and that experience really bodes well for her to adjust to how fast this game is at this level.”
A prototypical point guard who was trained to penetrate the basketball and then kick it back outside to another player for a shot-attempt, Zimmerman is also being asked by Touhey this season to look for her own shot more frequently.
Zimmerman’s career high in scoring came earlier this month with a 20-point effort —- including four 3-point baskets — in a loss at Portage Northern.
(First of two parts)