Sunday, January 18, 2004

Oh brother, can Esterkamp play


Otterbein star from a hoops family

By Shannon Russell
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The minute she was old enough to play ball, Diana Esterkamp was summoned to the family basketball court by her older brothers Dave and Steve.

Though she vanquished traditional rules of 'kid sister-dom' by becoming a welcome addition to pick-up games or shoot-arounds, the status came with a price. Esterkamp was banished to the state of perpetual assists.

"I was the designated passer," she said. "It was definitely a lot of fun, but I was usually out there to set (the boys) up for the good shots."

The Otterbein College senior guard's penchant for passing has since landed her in the school record books. Not only is Esterkamp the school career assists leader (580), but she is 38 points from being Otterbein's first player to earn 1,000 points and 500 assists in a career.

The McAuley grad leads the Ohio Athletic Conference in assists per game (8.36) for the second straight season, and she had a career-high 17 assists in a win over Mt. Union.

Esterkamp attributes her basketball savvy to watching her brothers play, first at La Salle and then at college. When Dave was a senior and Steve a freshman, the Lancers won a state championship. Dave went to Bowling Green and now plays in Austria; Steve left Ohio University for hoops in Germany.

From her view on the perimeter of her brothers' limelight, Esterkamp said she became keenly aware of how to watch the entire court. Instead of forcing shots, she learned to be patient and wait for the best shot regardless of who took it.

In college she also picked up the boys' trademark aggressiveness - which wasn't always a welcome trait.

"I don't take (flak) from anybody because they showed me how to hold my ground," Esterkamp said. "Sometimes it's frustrating because I pick up fouls because of it. Some refs don't think girls can do moves like that."

Otterbein coach Connie Richardson said Esterkamp's selfless play and knowledge of the game have made her a Cardinals' leader, and her athletic versatility allows her to slip in as a post player when needed.

As for her personal skills . . . Richardson said Esterkamp's not afraid to tell her teammates where to be or what to do. And that's not an easy feat in a women's basketball program, Richardson said.

"She'll say, 'This is how it is,' but she doesn't make it a personal issue," Richardson said. "But the biggest thing with her is the competitiveness she has. When a game is on the line, she's the one who wants the ball and the responsibility."

Esterkamp, a three-time OAC player of the week this season, is surrounded by good company. The team's seven seniors, which include Sycamore grad Candice Dunn, last year set a school record for wins (19) and posted the longest winning streak (nine games).

Ten letter-winners and five starters return to a team that's 12-3 and 5-3 in the OAC.

Though her brothers won't be back to see her play, she knows someday they'll watch the games on tape. And while Dave and Steve helped make their sister strong physically, Esterkamp attributes her accolades to her parents, Terri and Dave.

"They're here every Saturday, then they go home to watch (younger sister) Sarah play," Diana said. "It's pretty amazing that they're so supportive. The success I'm having is a payback to them."

Others

• The Cincinnati State men's basketball team plays two No. 1-ranked teams in three days this week. Monday, the Surge hosts Vincennes University at 7 p.m., the top team in the National Junior College Athletic Division's Division I. The Surge host Columbus State, the NJCAA's top Division II team, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

• Georgetown College junior volleyball player Jessica Leonard (Seton) was named Mid-South Conference Player of the Year, All-Region XI First Team, and All American Honorable Mention while helping her team qualify for Nationals in San Diego.

• Urbana University senior linebacker Charles Boyd (Western Hills) was named a first-team All-American on the 2003 NAIA Football All-American Team. Boyd tied the school record for total tackles in a single game with 22. He owns the record for total tackles in a season (152), career-solo tackles (222) and single-season solo tackles (112). He tops the list of total career tackles with 373.

• West Virginia Wesleyan College linebacker Zack Condo (Turpin) helped the football team to the first back-to-back West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference titles in school history. Condo had 53 tackles, including 10 for losses and three sacks.

• Mount St. Joseph senior center Virginia Grace (Colerain), who had double-doubles in two conference wins last week, was named Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference Player of the Week in women's basketball. Grace averages team-highs of 11.1 points and 10.8 rebounds. She leads the HCAC in rebounding and is second in blocked shots per game (3.0). Grace also ranks among the NCAA Division III national leaders - 11th in blocks per game and 27th in rebounds per game.

• Northern Kentucky University's Connie Myers was named Great Lakes Valley Conference Player of the Week in women's basketball. The junior forward averaged 20.5 points and 10.5 rebounds to lead NKU to a pair of wins last week.

• Mount Vernon Nazarene University Andy Dunn (Lakota West) was named National Christian College Athletic Association Player of the Week in men's basketball for the third time this season. Dunn averaged 23.7 points and accounted for 34 percent of the Cougars' scoring in three games last week. Dunn is 12th in NAIA Division II in scoring with a 20.4-point average.

• Lackawanna College's Steve Banks (Western Hills) leads the men's basketball team in scoring (189 points), rebounding (94), steals (30) and blocks (10).

• Miami University junior guard Chet Mason was named Mid-American Conference East Division Player of the Week for men's basketball after posting back-to-back double-doubles in consecutive Miami wins last week. Sophomore guard Cindi Merrill was named the MAC East Division's Player of the Week in women's basketball after averaging 23.5 points in two Miami wins.

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E-mail srussell@enquirer.com




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