New role for Papach

November 11, 2003 

By Dennis Churilla / Post-Tribune correspondent


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 toes.”

“She should have more opportunities (this year) and we want her to take advantage of that. Hopefully, she’ll pick up her scoring pace.”

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 Super Seniors.

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 sport.

“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 better dribbler.”

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 offensive output.

“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 said.

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.