By Brian Nielsen
You have likely seen the routine:
Coach takes center court, hands a basketball to the player during an announcement of said player’s 1,000th career point, they smile for a photo and the commemorative ball is given to someone for safekeeping so the game can begin.
For Mallory Ramage, the Mattoon High School sophomore who has reached such a milestone sooner than most anyone, that itinerary wasn’t quite enough in Saturday’s pregame festivity marking the 1,000-point mark Ramage accomplished in December.
After that first photo, she had the rest of her Green Wave team join her for another.
“I know I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Ramage said. “It wouldn’t have been possible without them.”
Mattoon coach Amanda Aydt was not surprised by her player’s request.
“She’s an all-around great young lady,” Aydt said.
The unselfish attitude carries on to the court, where Ramage’s ability and willingness to pass is part of Ramage’s game, which that has led the Green Wave to a 21-5 record going into Tuesday night’s home game against St. Joseph-Ogden.
“She’s an all-around outstanding player,” Aydt said. “She can do everything offensively and defensively. She knows how to handle pressure. She wants the ball in crucial situations. She can see the floor very well. She makes everyone around her better. Also, she’s a great defensive player. She gets the steals and rebounds.”
Sure, you probably start with the 21.6 scoring average Ramage takes into tonight’s game with a .504 field-goal percentage, racked up partly by the fact she can dribble past defenders with either hand to cash in layups but supplemented by 12 3-pointers on 40 attempts for a .333 percentage. With a high of 33 points, Ramage has scored at least 13 in every game this season and has 17 games in which she has scored 20 or more.
The 5-foot-9 guard also finds teammates for 2.8 assists per game to go along with averages of 4.3 rebounds and 3.5 steals.
“I really just like everything about basketball,” Ramage said. “It feels just as good to make a good pass as to make a good shot.”
That does not mean this came naturally without practice.
“I just need to keep my head up when dribbling,” Ramage said of her ability to see the open teammates. “I’d say my freshman year I learned to do that. Two-ball dribbling helps that a lot.”
Those drills dribbling a ball with both hands have been done in her driveway at home, a friend’s indoor court, the YMCA and other practice courts.
When not in the high school season, Ramage plays for the Indiana Elite Havoc and credits playing with, and practicing against, Olney standout Anna Blank for some of the success.
“Coach Aydt and (Mattoon assistant) coach (Troy) Haacke have helped a lot, my Indiana Elite coaches have helped and (youth coach) Greg Smith helped a lot,” Ramage said.
Aydt quickly learned what she had when Ramage entered her freshman year.
“The first game of the summer we played,” the Mattoon coach said. “I knew after that.”
Ramage would not call it instant stardom.
“Middle school, I was still learning the game of basketball,” she said, “and I am still learning.”
“Once school basketball is over, I usually try to get in shots every day and our travel team will practice a couple of times a week and play on weekends,” Ramage said. “It takes a lot of work.”
All is part of the long-range goal to play NCAA Division I basketball.
That is starting to take shape as the sophomore has already heard from coaches from Eastern Illinois, Tennessee-Chattanooga and University of Illinois.
“All her hard work is paying off,” Aydt said.
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