Region Roundball Review reports on Portage's

Michele Pickering
  

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Vitals & Stats

Portage's Michele Pickering looks to pass under defensive pressure from Hobart during last season's regular season contest against the Brickies. 



Coach Renee Turpa on Pickering:
   

"Michele has been a true joy to coach.  I have not had any player who has consistently worked harder than Michele during the season on a day to day basis.  She will be a great recruit for the college that signs her, merely because she's an unknown to anyone that's not from Northwest Indiana. 

"Because of her commitments to our very successful school softball team she has not been able to play in the AAU state tournament, and therefore has had to play in evaluation tournaments as an individual rather than as part of a team. 

"Her 'team' mentality is what makes her so great.  She'll do anything that needs to be done to help the team win, and she sacrifices individual goals for our team.  She has a true 'point guard' take charge mentality, which isn't always easy to find."

 

Height  5'4  
Position  Point Guard
Year  Class of 2000
College   University of Wisconsin-Parkside
98-99 Stats  9.0 ppg
3.6 apg
3.0 rpg
3.0 spg
Honors 

-Duneland All-Conference
-Twin Lakes All-Tourney
-RRR Top 20 Senior (99-00)
-Times All-Area 2nd Team
-Post-Tribune All-Area HM
-RRR 98-99 All-Area 4A HM
-Team MVP (97-98)
-Team Assist & Steal Leader (97-98, 98-99)
-Team Most Improved (96-97)

Nickname  "Pick" or "Pickle"
Contact   rturpa@portage.k12.in.us

Heart and soul 


Portage's Pickering is the inspirational core of one of this year's top Northwest Indiana contenders.

You're chewing on your pencil in the school library, sweating out the ISTEPs.  How do you answer the following analogy to get that passing score?

Uranium core is to nuclear reactor, as...
     
a.  Stone Cold is to Chyna
b.  South Park's Kenny is to the Grim Reaper
c.  Dawson's Creek is to bad acting
d.  Michele Pickering is to the Portage 
Indians girls basketball team
    

If you picked "d", congratulations! You get a diploma at graduation.  If you didn't, well... quit watching so much television and we'll see you in class next year.

The real test will be for opponents facing relentless Portage defender and perpetual motion offensive machine, Michele Pickering.  The 5'4 senior guard has been one of the inspirational keys to the 4A Indians' gradual development from underdog to top dog in the competitive Duneland Conference during the past three years.

A team player in the truest sense, Pickering sacrifices heart and soul in every game for her Lady Indians.  That kind of effort does not go unnoticed.  

continued... 

Academics & other activities

Pickering on the Lady Indians

  • GPA - 3.351/4.000
  • Softball (3 years, catcher)
  • Volunteer work with mentally challenged adults

      

"I expect a lot out of our 1999-2000 team.  

"I believe that ALL the girls have displayed a fight, a want to win at conditioning and open gyms.  I think that a lot of our younger girls have improved greatly over the summer and will surprise a lot of people.

"Hansen and Autrey have a varsity year under their belt.  Yudtie's been playing AAU all summer.  Buerg and myself have been playing against our brothers.  And when we had the chance, we all played together.  

"I think we are gonna be pretty good."

Related articles & links

 

Pickle's picks...

Toughest 1999-2000 Games Valpo and Crown Point.  They have a good program.  They always have good teams.  They play hard all the time and never give up.  They're gonna be tough.
Toughest Opposing DAC Players Offense: They are all pretty tough.  No one really sticks out in my mind. 
Defense:  I would have to say Dana Lippelt of Valpo.  She has always been a pretty good defensive player, and I'm sure she's gotten better.
Biggest Rivals Valpo.  They're always good, we're
always decent.  Our games are always hard and physical.  We've grown a hate.
Toughest Gym  Chesterton.  It's a small gym, but it's a loud gym. They always have the school band and school support.  Most school's don't get that. Our's doesn't.

Pickering pre-game routine

Pick knows the Indians...

I listen to "The Greatest" by Kenny
Rogers on my CD player (along with some other songs),  do the mantis with Buerg and Nat,  look for my parents, and say to myself, "Win or lose, I want to be able to walk away knowing I did everything I could to win."

Floor coach   The Seniors
Enforcer   Lauren Hansen 
Secret weapon   She wouldn't be secret if 
 I told you...
Team cut-up   Natalie Yudt or Ashley
 Safstrom 
"Mother Hen"    The Seniors 
Up and comer   Nicole Dearing 

...continued

Pickle brings the ball up the court to start the offense for her Lady Indians.  As a senior, Michele expects to step up her leadership role this season.  


When a Purdue coach was out to observe another NWI player against Portage last season, Pickering made an impression with her body-sacrificing dives for loose balls and relentless defensive pressure.  Although Pickering is not the right fit for the Lady Boilermakers, Purdue's coach stated she was more than willing to pass the word on to other college programs about Pickering.  College coaches love a hard worker, and that kind of hustle has been the Portage senior's signature style of play for years.

"She is incredible.  She has remarkable court sense when she drives the lane.  If you move your feet, she'll draw the contact.  If you don't move, she'll fly right past the defender like she was glued to the floor."

That's a quote from her coach  -- her eighth grade coach, Jim Wheeler, in 1996, when Pickering's Willowcreek Middle School team won the Lake-Porter Conference tournament title.  But nothing much has changed since then, except that she's gotten even better. 

Pickle, as she is known to her friends, went from the Indians' Most Improved as a freshman to Most Valuable as a sophomore.  She has led her team in steals and assists the last two seasons, and will direct the Portage season attack from the point once again for the last time.

Pickering has played basketball in Portage with teammates Natalie Yudt and Cheryl Buergler since she was 5 years old.  Needless to say, the chemistry and camaraderie is strong between the seniors, and knowing that this could be their last year together, they are goal-oriented heading into the 1999-2000 season.  But they're not looking too far ahead, and according to Pickering, "My first goal is to beat the first team on our schedule.  Then I'll take it one game at a time, setting new goals for every game.  I don't want to get too far ahead of myself."

That philosophy grew out of the Indians' abrupt finish in their 1998-99 campaign. Portage had a great showing last season, with a ranking in the state polls for the first time in ages and a regular season victory over long-time Porter County and sectional nemesis Valpo.  They even snatched the Duneland Conference crown from the Vikings, with a little help from Crown Point's upset of Valpo in the last regular game of the season.  Everything looked extremely promising for an extended post-season heading into sectionals, until the unthinkable happened.  In the first round of sectional play, they were nipped while not looking by the Michigan City Wolves, second-to-last finishers in the DAC.

"The biggest lesson we learned from last season was that anything can happen." says Pickering.  "We found out the true meaning of 'Go hard or go home.'"  

Going home early is not an option for the Portage seniors this season, since there are no chances again next year.  Pickering wants to help her team get farther into the tournament this season, as well as leave her mark on her teammates for seasons to come.

"I think that this year I have to be more of a team leader," explains Pickering.  "Instead of just learning all the time, I have to be one of the people who encourages and teaches the younger girls.  I have to help get them prepared for the years to come."

That type of unselfish and team-oriented thinking is what makes Pickering Northwest Indiana's best-kept secret where college recruiters are concerned.  Not well known statewide and not carrying eye-popping statistics, this feisty point guard's value is in the intangibles she possesses that can't be quantified on paper -- hard work, floor hustle, and team sacrifice -- all the qualities that can make or break a player in the college ranks.  

Pickering has been unable to play AAU or attend a lot of summer exposure events over the past few years because of her dedication to the successful Portage softball team.  Even so, several colleges are wise to Pickering's talents, and the recruiting process has been going well.  Her recruiting advice to underclassmen?  "Start early -- sophomore, maybe even freshman year.  The more they see you, the more they'll like you.  You just have to be patient.  Don't get discouraged and keep trying."

Among her most memorable experiences in high school basketball, Pickering refers to the game the Indians played last season against New Albany in the Hoosiers gym (of movie fame), with unheated locker rooms in the middle of winter.  "Unforgettable!"  In another memorable moment, Pickering hit a 3/4 court shot in the Highland game.  "It wasn't the game winner or anything, but it was still cool."  No doubt.

Playing in that famous gym from the movie "Hoosiers" might have reflected a glimpse of the future for Pickering, since she would like to be a television or movie star someday.  (We think she might be a natural to replace the Energizer Bunny if his batteries should ever go dead.)  But since she doesn't see movie stardom happening soon, she is looking at teaching either math or physical education as something to fall back on.  Either way, Pickering is hoping to live in a big city like Hollywood or Chicago after college.

Whatever long-term path she chooses, Pickering will rely upon the lessons she learned from her Portage coaches, especially softball coach Dave "Murph" Mattix.  "He's taught me that the most important thing I need to succeed in sports is to have a positive attitude and believe in myself.  He's taught me that if I do the little things right, the big things will get smaller.  He's just always been there for me and always believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.  Whether he likes it or not, I kind of look up to him."

For now, though, Pickering will enjoy her last season of high school basketball and give it all she's got.  We don't think she knows how to do it any other way.

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1999 REGION ROUNDBALL REVIEW - This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without prior permission.