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Marquette's McConnell chooses hoops; to play for IUN

Before the start of the basketball season, Ally McConnell figured her college athletics future was in softball. After averaging 19.2 points and 7.3 rebounds for Marquette Catholic, the Blazers senior changed her mind. "I always loved basketball when I was younger and my senior season brought it out," McConnell said. "I thought softball would be my main college sport, but the more we got into basketball, the more I wanted to do that. At first, I thought, wow, I'm actually good enough to play against good teams, people are noticing, then I was like, oh, maybe I can play in college. It was eye-opening." Marquette coach Katie Collignon began putting out feelers to local schools to gauge interest and heard back from Indiana Northwest and Calumet College. While McConnell's path to the court was clearer at Calumet College, she opted for the bigger challenge of playing at IUN, verbally committing last week to the Red Hawks. "All the hard work I put in the gym paid off," McConnell said. "I want to work for it more to show what I can do. It's also the distance, either 15 minutes (from Portage to IUN in Gary) or 40 (from Portage to Cal College in Whiting), and the tuition." Coincidentally, McConnell's parents Shaun and Nicole are the softball coaches at Marquette, but her decision to choose basketball over softball posed no hard feelings. Actually, it eased some of the difficulty in figuring out how to see both her and her sister Lauren, a softball player at Purdue Fort Wayne.

"In the winter, they can watch me and in the spring, they can watch Lauren," McConnell said. "It kind of works out." Softball was McConnell's quickest route to success at Marquette, where she came off the bench in basketball on the Blazers' Class A state championship teams the last two years. She averaged a modest 4.1 points per game as a junior, but with the starting five graduated, the floor was wide open this season and McConnell took full advantage. "It was after Ally's sophomore year when I thought she had collegiate basketball potential," Collignon said. "At that time, she was a three-sport standout so her focus went from season to season. She probably had the option to play all three at the next level, to be honest. During her senior year, she made not only a huge jump in leadership and toughness, her skill set vastly improved. She went from being a component of some championship teams to being the focal point. Not many athletes have the ability to make that adjustment. Her character, resilience and will to win will serve her well." The 5-foot-11 guard-forward played practically every position on the floor for Marquette this season and that versatility appealed to IUN, which went 11-19 this season. "They said I can fit more into different roles and not just one specific role," she said. "I can dribble. I can guard. I can shoot. There's going to be a lot of competition, but they said if I work hard for my sport, pay attention and get good grades, I'll be fine." McConnell will major in Elementary Education/Early Development and hopes to eventually return to Marquette as a teacher and coach. "I truly think IUN is a good fit for both her athletic ability and the desire to stay close to home," Collignon said. "I'm ecstatic that I'll be close enough to follow her at the next level." With basketball locked in for college, McConnell was disappointed not being able to punctuate her high school athletics career on the softball field. Like all other idled athletes, she's doing what she can to stay sharp and fit under the current social constraints. "It's sad in a way, not being able to play, especially with my parents coaching," she said. "I miss it."

Three-sport Marquette Catholic standout Ally McConnell will play basketball at Indiana Northwest. The 5-foot-11 guard-forward was an all-La Porte County selection this season after averaging 19.2 points and 7.3 rebounds per game for the Blazers.

Photo by Scott Allen

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