LINCOLN — Rachel Theriot had a new challenge the past few weeks during a rare quiet stretch for the Cleveland-area basketball star whose stock has been rising since she committed to Nebraska a year ago.
How does one sustain motivation among the detail-oriented shooting drills, lifting sessions and jogs that seemingly aren’t productive unless you push to near exhaustion?
There were no more AAU tournaments. No organized games.
It’s not easy, especially for a competitor whose specialty is directing traffic at the top of the key while buying time for teammates to find openings.
“I enjoy the sport, just doing all of it,” said Theriot, who’s in Lincoln this summer taking summer classes while prepping for her freshman season. “I definitely miss playing in the games.”
She’s one of three NU newcomers on the 13-player roster for 2012-13. Freshman guard Sadie Murren, from Wahoo, originally signed with Wisconsin-Green Bay but switched to Nebraska this offseason after a coaching change in Green Bay. Courtney Aitken, out of Centura High School, will walk on.
Theriot’s the most decorated of the class and one of the more nationally regarded recruits to sign with Husker coach Connie Yori.
A lanky 6-foot floor general, Theriot averaged 16.6 points, 11 assists and six rebounds as a senior at Midpark High School in Middleburg Heights, Ohio. She was a three-time all-state honoree and the MVP of her district.
Theriot’s court vision might be her best attribute. Her coach at Midpark, Stephanie Mentz, said this: “You could say ‘nice pass’ every time she gets rid of the ball.” But Mentz added that Theriot is also improved as a shooter (she made 45 percent of her 3-pointers last year) and she’s evolving into a more assertive vocal leader.
Collegiate Girls Basketball Report and All-Star Girls Report both ranked Theriot among their top 100 players in the 2012 class. ESPN/HoopGurlz listed Theriot as the nation’s 18th-best point guard.
Xavier, which had made five straight NCAA tournaments until 2012 (including the Elite Eight in 2010), pushed hard to get Theriot’s commitment. So did Ohio State, the Big Ten champ for six straight seasons from 2005 to 2010. Other suitors: Louisville, Virginia Tech, Illinois, Michigan State — the list extends outside the Midwest, too.
The Huskers were first, though. They originally targeted Theriot four years ago, then pursued aggressively from that point forward.
“You’d see the email and look at the time stamp — it was almost like they had the email already drafted and were waiting for that (contact) period to start,” said Mentz, now an assistant at Notre Dame College of Ohio. “They did a phenomenal job recruiting her. ... There was always a different look on Rachel’s face when she talked about Nebraska.”
Theriot first visited NU about 18 months ago. She gave her nonbinding pledge last summer.
And now that Theriot’s officially in Lincoln, she’s hoping to help the Huskers build off their inaugural season in the Big Ten. They finished 10-6 in the regular season and reached the championship game in the league tournament before earning an NCAA tourney berth.
That’s why she was working so hard before coming to Lincoln — making a 40-minute drive to the gym for sessions with a trainer; finding pick-up games whenever possible; and getting her friends and parents to rebound during shooting drills.
“I’m doing my best, working hard,” Theriot said. “I’m hoping to get playing time, but I’m pretty much just going to come in and bring what I do best.”
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