MORRIS – Erin Heide’s basketball career at Minooka Community High School may be remembered as much for the points she did not score as the ones she did.
A fractured foot contributed to Heide scoring only 133 points, and to the Indians winning only 14 games games, when she was a junior in 2012-13. Want evidence that she made a difference? Minooka was 8-7 with Heide in the lineup and 6-11 with her sidelined last season.
She upped her per-game average to 14.9 points from 8.9 as a senior. It was the second-highest such average in the area, yet Minooka coach Ray Liberatore thinks it could be higher had Heide not been one of the more unselfish players he has ever coached.
For her contributions to a 20-win Minooka team, Heide is the 2014 Morris Daily Herald Girls Basketball Most Valuable Player.
Movers and shakers
Heide was a newcomer to Minooka in the summer of 2008, when she moved there from Michigan, but she was no newcomer to basketball. She had joined her first basketball team in third grade.
It did not take Heide long to get acclimated to her new team. She spent that summer playing in camps at Minooka Junior High and got to know her teammates. And she continued to thrive in the sport in her new hometown. By her freshman year at Minooka Community High School, she was getting varsity playing time for the Indians and also playing AAU ball for the Illinois Rockets.
“That was in Naperville,” Heide said. “It just got to be too much, ‘cause it was too far.”
When Heide was getting her start in basketball, she was often coached by her father, Jeff, who today is the 16th-leading scorer in Central Michigan University men’s history. As Erin progressed through high school, her dad became her coach once again.
“He knows basketball, and he’s always coached us, so we just got a bunch of the school girls together,” she said. “I didn’t have a team that was close enough [geographically], so my dad just did that so the Minooka girls could get together and work on our game.”
For the past few summers, several members of the Minooka girls team, calling themselves the Illinois Blaze, would form a team. They would practice at the Channahon Park District and then enter a few tournaments against tough competition.
“It helped a lot,” Heide said. “Our chemistry off the court [improved], ‘cause we’ve spent a lot of nights in hotels. We went to my lake house in Michigan and stayed together. You could tell. Our chemistry off the court helped us on the court.”
In Heide’s first three years of high school, she knew nothing but regional championships. She was a late varsity call-up to the 2010-11 Indians, who won the Danville Regional. She helped them prevail at the Joliet West Regional in 2012 and at the Bradley-Bourbonnais Regional in 2013.
Minooka met Bradley-Bourbonnais at a regional for the third straight year in 2014 at Normal Community. It was there that the Indians’ winning streaks over the Boilers and in regionals came to an end, as did Heide’s career, with a 50-35 loss in the championship game.
This year’s Bradley-Bourbonnais team was the toughest Heide can remember the Indians playing in a regional during her career.
“I know we beat Bradley the past few years, but they had that transfer that came in [Martha Burse] that really helped them,” Heide said. “We gave it our all. We played as best as we could, but we just fell short.”
Even with the loss, the Indians had their most successful season from a win-loss perspective since 2010-11, going 20-7. Heide cites their two come-from-behind victories over Providence as a highlight.
“This is a really good team. We had underclassmen that really helped out. We won 20 games, which is really good for us,” Heide said, “so even though we didn’t win the regional, it was still a really good team. We accomplished a lot.”
Heide was a big part of that success, Liberatore says, and not only because of her surface contributions. The Indians’ balanced scoring attack – they had three players average at least 9.8 points per game – was a credit to Heide, he feels.
“Her scoring average could have been quite a bit higher than it was if she had been, by nature, a gunslinger,” Liberatore said. “She’s always been all about the team. She sees the court very well, and she’s smart enough to know we have other options. It starts with your best player. If your best player is unselfish, then that’s gonna spread to the other players, which is a great thing from a coach’s standpoint.”
End of the road?
Part of the reason the regional loss was so tough for Heide is that she is no longer planning to play college basketball. She had several offers, but has gone back and forth between going to a school with a spot on its team for her and one that is a better educational fit. She is currently planning to attend Illinois State University and to become a pediatric nurse.
“It really [stinks] to go from being a part of a team and knowing that you’re going to college and not have that anymore,” Heide said.
Heide’s older brother, Ben, was a standout for the boys team at MCHS. He went to North Central College to play basketball, but is no longer on the team, which means for the first time in many years, none of the Heides will be involved in organized basketball.
“[Ben] decided also to focus on education, and so I just think it’s going to be a big change, I guess, to focus on other things,” Renee Heide, Erin’s mom, said.
Erin does plan to play intramural basketball at college and in the occasional summer tournament.