A week from today, UE senior Samantha Heck won’t be walking at her graduation.
But that’s a good thing, and she’s still graduating.
Heck will instead continue her basketball career with the NetScouts USA Women’s Basketball All-Stars, a team of college senior players who will tour China.
The NetScouts team leaves Monday, starts competition Friday and will play three games in three Chinese cities — the coastal town of Xiamen, Ganzhou and Nanchang — in a tour that runs through May 13.
NetScouts forms a team annually that consists of players who claimed all-conference honors in their respective leagues, and many go on to play professionally overseas following the foreign trip. Familiar faces joining Heck are Northern Iowa’s Jacqui Kalin and Illinois State’s Jamie Russell, both from the Missouri Valley Conference.
Heck, a 6-foot-2 center, averaged a team-high 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Evansville last season. She went out with her best effort, notching career highs in points (29) and rebounds (16) as the Aces fell to Southern Illinois at the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.
I’ll have more on Heck’s foreign tour in Monday’s paper. Here’s some of what the Auxvasse, Mo., native thought about the trip with some input from UE coach Oties Epps:
On missing her graduation: “College graduation doesn’t sound very appealing,” Heck said. “It’s just sitting around for hours. China seems a lot better.”
Heck on never having left the country before: “It is kind of scary. I’m not very keen on flying. It should be interesting. And I’m very picky with my food.”
On representing her country: “I don’t think it’s really hit me that I’m going to do that yet,” she said. “I think when I put on the jersey though it’s going to feel amazing having that red, white and blue for the USA.”
Epps talks how this came together: “We just got a call while we were at the Final Four from the director of the program. He said he was interested in Sam. We quickly notified Sam. Also, some of the names from other players on the team were from the league, so I wanted to make sure – called the UNI coach – to make sure it’s legit. A lot of people do scams and try to get money from them. We found out it was legit and got excited from that point.”
Epps on the what it could mean for Heck’s basketball future: “There’s going to be opportunities for these kids to play well and showcase themselves, because there will be European team scouts over there watching. Given our setup and situation here, we ran a lot of things for her or through her so she was getting the ball and getting touches. As a 6-2 player, there aren’t many players who can post, shoot and handle.
“She’s got to assert herself and show those things, because I don’t think the coach on this team is going to say, ‘Hey Sam, you’re a really good player. We need you to do this, that and the other.’ I think it’s just expected.”
Added Heck: “I kind of worry about it just because it’s not the kind of person I am, but this year the coaches demanded more out of me, so I think I’m capable.”