By Kyle Daubs

Mallory Ramage (above) took her game to a whole new level as a sophomore. 

Her reward? The Mattoon High School junior is looking at playing basketball at the next level. The Division I level. 

Ramage has announced that she has verbally committed to NCAA Division I Loyola University. Since Ramage is a junior, she cannot sign until she is a senior. Even with two full basketball seasons left to play, Ramage jumped on the decision to play at Loyola. 

“I got an offer back in June and I have always just thought about the school,” said Ramage. “The men’s program is pretty good and the women are up-and-coming. It was the best decision for me. I’m really excited about it.”

Loyola University is a private Catholic university in Chicago with an enrollment close to 12,000. In 2018, the Ramblers reached the men’s basketball Final Four during which the team’s 99-year-old team chaplain, Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, became an international figure. 

The women’s team finished 15-14 last season with a 6-12 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. The 2019-2020 season was the best record since head coach Kate Achter took over four years ago. 

Ramage said she had offers from Indiana State, North Carolina-Wilmington, Tennessee-Chattanooga, IUPUI and Eastern Illinois University, but it was the coaches at Loyola who swayed her. 

“I just felt more of a connection with those coaches and had more of a relationship with them the best,” said Ramage. 

Loyola is going to get one of the best players in central Illinois, if not the state. Ramage, a 5-foot-9 guard, helped Mattoon go 27-6 overall and 12-0 in the Apollo Conference in winning the Class 3A regional championship. 

“Mallory really understands the game of basketball and sees the floor well,” said Aydt. “As a point guard, she runs our offense very effectively. She does a nice job of attacking the basket and finishing well, and creating from the outside. Mallory’s leadership and basketball IQ helps our team compete at a high level. She can handle the ball, score off the dribble, shoot from anywhere and find her open teammates.”

Ramage led the Green Wave in scoring at 21.5 points per game, was 175-of-211 (.829) from 2-point range and 57-of-102 (.559) from 3-point range.

Aydt attributes Ramage’s offensive success to extra hours working on her form in the gym. 

“Mallory is a leader on the floor as well as off the floor,” said Aydt. “Mallory has an outstanding work ethic and she is one of the hardest working players I have coached. She always comes to practice ready to work hard and get better. She puts in extra time to get better and always gives 100 percent in games and practices. All of her hard work has paid off. Mallory has spent hours in the gym and stays after most practices and shoots. She has a greeting shooting form.”

Ramage also led the team in rebounds (4.4), assists (2.5), steals (3.5), and blocks (0.8) per game. 

As a sophomore, Ramage was voted the team’s Most Valuable Player and also was named an honorable mention to the Associated Press all-state team. As a freshman, Ramage averaged a team-leading 19.3 points to go with 5.4 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 0.8 assists per game. 

“At her best, she is unstoppable,” said Aydt. “She plays at a high level and pushes everyone around her to raise their game as well. She is an outstanding player that can do anything. Mallory has an incredible will to win. She is driven to become the best player she can be. Mallory can do everything on the basketball court.”

Ramage credits her coaches and her family. 

“Definitely my mom, dad, and sister have helped me out a lot,” said Ramage. “Greg Smith has been my travel coach since fourth grade and he’s always giving me workouts. Coach Adyt has reached out to a lot of coaches and talked to Loyola a lot. Ever since middle school, I’ve always wanted to be a D-1 athlete. That was always the goal.”

With two years away, Ramage hasn’t put any thought of where she will play on the floor. She cited that no matter what she’ll “be the hardest worker there.”

Aydt sees Ramage contributing as a point guard and a two-way player. 

“She knows when to push the ball, when to attack the basketball, and when to set up and run our offense,” said Aydt. “With her ball-handling skills, she is able to create so many opportunities for herself and her teammates. She also does a good job on the defensive end. She is a standout player on both ends of the floor and doesn’t take plays off. She always gives 100 percent no matter what. She’s a great leader and hard worker. She has a positive attitude and is an all-around great young lady.”