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.
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
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.
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.
Story | Coach's Comments | Pickle's
Picks | Pickering on the Indians | Related
Articles & Links |
© 1999 REGION ROUNDBALL
REVIEW - This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or
redistributed without prior permission.