CHESTERTON | When considering athletics and academics, ending a sports career in favor of an exceptional learning experience isn’t a decision to be made lightly.
That’s the conclusion Chesterton senior Caroline Puntillo has come to, however. After the end of this girls basketball season, Puntillo will hang up her sneakers for good.
“I definitely looked into the option of playing in college,” Puntillo said. “I talked to a few coaches. But after thinking about it and after talking to my parents, I’ve decided that I’m not going to play next year.”
The decision wasn’t an easy one to make, but Puntillo feels her future academic program — some potential combination of business and physical therapy — will require her undivided attention.
“I always said that I was going to pick a school academically first and then if I was able to play basketball at that school, that would be a plus,” Puntillo said. “There were a few places that I would be able to go to play basketball and go to school at a good school, but I think ultimately I just realized that I was going to have to give it up eventually, whether it was now or in four years.
“I decided I just wanted to focus more on school and the future.”
Puntillo hasn’t made a decision about which institution she’ll attend, but she expects to start hearing back from schools to which she has applied in March. In the meantime, the senior is enjoying a season that has seen her average nearly 20 points per game for the 7-7 Trojans.
“She’s a competitor. She’s what I would call a true scorer,” coach Jack Campbell said. “She finds many different ways of scoring points. She’s not just a standing shooter; she can take it to the basket it, she can dribble (into a) jump shot, she’ll post up. She can score about any way that you give her an opportunity to score.”
Anchoring a roster that overall is on the short side, the 5-foot-9 Puntillo has had an opportunity to run her own version of the inside-out offense. She posts up when needed, but is also able to get outside and knock down a 3-pointer or two.
“Coach Campbell and I talk a lot about the positions he’s going to need me to play. Because we don’t have a lot of height, we’ve definitely talked a lot about working in the post,” Puntillo said. “I worked a lot on my strength in the offseason and on my conditioning. I got in the weight room and then worked a lot of post moves, learning what it would be like to play against (more traditional) post players.”
Puntillo’s hard work has been paying dividends on the court, where she recently passed 2001 graduate Christy Poparad for seventh place in school history in career points. Her offensive prowess has been on display often this season, especially during a 23-point effort against Roosevelt when the Trojans scored a school-record 92 points. The scoring outburst broke the old record of 89 points set against Calumet in 1995.
“It was pretty cool. It was a total team game,” Puntillo said. “We played really well together. When we can play together like that, working together as a team, we’re a lot better. We had lost twice to Valpo in the same week. It was not fun, practices were not fun. We wanted to prove that is not how we play.”
With six games remaining on the schedule before the sectional, Puntillo is looking to leave a lasting impression on the Trojans program. No matter how the season ends, Campbell knows Puntillo will leave the legacy of a true student-athlete.
“She’s an outstanding student. Her parents both went to Notre Dame, so obviously they’re very academically oriented,” Campbell said. “I know she probably has pretty high aspirations as far as academics and what she wants to do with her life.”