VALPARAISO | Jessi Wiedemann has been through more than most in her short collegiate career, and the Valparaiso women’s basketball player is only entering her sophomore year.
The Palatine native signed with the Crusaders under then-coach Keith Freeman when stars Mallory Ladd and Tabitha Gerardot were still on the roster.
Ladd transferred to Evansville and Freeman was replaced by Tracey Dorow before Wiedemann enrolled in classes. Then Gerardot, thought to be the one grooming Wiedemann for future stardom, left after last season, leaving a void on the roster.
Finally, on a team suddenly lacking size, Dorow asked Wiedemann to change positions from the perimeter to the post.
“I played some forward last year, so it’s really not a big deal,” Wiedemann said. “I just want to do whatever is best for the team. I don’t think my role will change all that much.”
Wiedemann is the kind of kid that puts her head down and just gets the job done. Dorow thought enough of the sophomore to name Wiedemann a captain despite just one year of college experience.
“Jessi is a low-maintenance kid and what I mean by that is you don’t have to ask her to do a whole lot and she always goes above-and-beyond what we need,” Dorow said. “We were searching for kids that would emerge as leaders and we definitely saw that in Jessi.”
Just when it looked like Wiedemann would be able to settle into her own this season, more strife stuck the program. Starting point guard Jessica Carr (hand) and reserve forward Sarah Godwin (knee) both suffered potential season-ending injuries since the school year began. Oakland transfer Elizabeth Hamlet suffered a concussion in practice last month and has yet to return to form.
With Carr and Hamlet both serving as captains, the weight of leadership falls even more on Wiedemann, especially with the other two captains being among the most vocal on the team.
“I’m definitely trying to be more vocal,” Wiedemann said. “I feel like we have great chemistry this year and we all really connect well with one another. That’s going to help us as the season goes on.”
Dorow expects some growing pains from the Crusaders in the non-conference, especially with a schedule that opens with three brutal road games at St. Louis, Illinois and Notre Dame. The goal is to be playing the best basketball by the start of Horizon League play and that’s when Dorow really believes Wiedemann will shine.
“We’ve put her in a position where she is going to create a serious mismatch against Horizon League teams,” Dorow said. “Jessi is a player that makes a difference on every possession. She has that versatility and a very high basketball IQ.”