Whiting coach Joey Pokraka is pretty clear on what he expects
from Becca Papach, one of the leading scorers in the area last year.
He’s looking for her to score even more.
With a 21.8-points-per-game average, Papach clearly constituted
the bulk of the Oiler offense last season. But with Lauren Curosh
and her 14.3-point average now graduated, second scoring options
will be a lot more scarce for Whiting.
“I think this year she knows it’s her team,” Pokraka said. “Last
year she was a little more timid and didn’t want to step on any
“She should have more opportunities (this year) and we want her
to take advantage of that. Hopefully, she’ll pick up her scoring
Asking a high schooler to bump up an average already in the 20s
might seem a bit much. But Papach appears to have the game to do so.
While Whiting’s individual scoring records are a bit murky, the
Region Roundball Review Web site lists Papach as already holding the
school’s career scoring record.
They’ve placed Papach on their preseason list of the state’s 25
Papach was also a member of an AAU team that was ranked ninth
nationally this summer. That team included Miss Basketball
candidates Julie DeMuth of Merrillville, Jodi Howell of Alexandria
and Kelli Agness of North Central. But don’t think Papach was just
along for the ride.
“I think Becca showed she has the skills DeMuth has and plays
just as hard,” Whiting assistant coach Ed Salczynski said.
Papach’s success is the culmination of a lot of years spent
working on her game. She started playing basketball when she was
just 3, shooting at the archways in her family’s living room.
Since then, she’s jumped into a steady routine of AAU and school
team commitments along with an individual practice schedule that
leaves little time for anything else except volleyball, her other
“She works on her game every single day,” said Pokraka. “I asked
her to work on her dribbling skills this summer and she came back a
Her efforts could likely pay off in the form of a NCAA Division I
scholarship. Illinois State and Michigan State are two of the
schools that have expressed interest.
But prior to that, there’s a senior season to complete. And
Papach is less concerned with personal achievements than with the
success of the team.
“I think we can compete really well in the LAC Blue this year and
we want to get Washington Township in the sectionals,” said Papach.
“They beat us last year and it’s becoming a good rivalry for us.”
Achieving the team’s goals will be a bit of a tightrope act for
Papach. While her coach is looking for her scoring to increase,
she’ll also have to keep her teammates involved.
Whiting returns a couple of other senior starters, Laura Siminic
and Brittany Malkowski, who will be expected to raise their own
“We told them if they want to just stand around and watch Becca,
they’ll have to buy a ticket and sit in the bleachers,” Salczynski
Papach, though, will probably have plenty of other admirers
catching her in action.
Besides the occasional college recruiter, expect to see a large
contingent of family at the Whiting games, including her father,
Ray, who serves as an assistant for Pokraka.