Girls basketball

Times Indiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year: LaPorte's Jaclyn Heath

2014-03-20T19:00:00Z 2014-03-25T14:49:07Z Times Indiana Girls Basketball Player of the Year: LaPorte's Jaclyn HeathJim Hunsley jim.hunsley@nwi.com, (219) 548-4356 nwitimes.com

Winning a softball national championship couldn't sway Jaclyn Heath's thoughts about her favorite sport, basketball.

As a 10-year-old, Heath was part of an ASA title squad. Less than a year later, she decided on one athletic endeavor.

"I talked with my parents, and we decided that I needed to pick one," she said. "My dad (Skeeter) being a basketball coach and playing travel basketball helped me decide.

"I think I made the right decision. I feel very blessed that everything worked out. I couldn't ask for much more."

From fifth grade on, hoops has been Heath's main focus. The Times Girls Basketball Player of the Year finished her prep career on a strong note.

As a senior, she helped LaPorte go 7-0 in the Duneland Athletic Conference. The Slicers (20-3) were in the top 10 of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association's Poll since mid-December, reaching as high as No. 5.

The Division II North Alabama recruit finished her LaPorte career first in assists (632) and 3-pointers (161). She's second in points (1,019) and steals (268). In her final season, she averaged 13.1 points, 7.4 assists, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 steals. She had an assist/turnover ratio of 4.3 to 1. She also led the team in charges taken, most defensive helps, fewest defensive errors and post feeds.

In high school, she did this under the direction of her dad. Slicers coach Skeeter Heath noticed his daughter's desire for basketball from a young age.

"She just had a different drive for basketball," he said. "If she wanted to get somewhere, she was going to do what she could to get there.

"She's largely responsible for the evolution of our program."

The Slicers were 33-32 in Jaclyn's first three seasons. She was North representative for the Indiana Junior All-Stars team last season. With a veteran group back, the healthy status of sophomore Kyleigh Kubik and incoming freshman Nicole Konieczny in the fold, point guard Heath had plenty of offensive options.

"Early on, I didn't have to score as much because we were great contributions from Kubik and Konieczny," said Jaclyn, the DAC MVP. "As we played more games, teams started to cover them more. I realized that I had to do more for the team."

Despite her height limitations (5-foot-3 1/2 inches), Heath still stood tall.

"She's right-handed as far as shooting, but she's better with the ball moving to the left," Skeeter Heath said. "That can be a hard thing for a defense to grasp.

"In the last two years, her range increased. If they played off her, she had more space to get by. She wasn't afraid to get knocked down if she drove. She'd get right back up."

She also kept the team afloat with her leadership skills.

"I was kind of expected to be the leader, since I'm a coach's daughter," she said. "It wasn't always easy."

Coach Heath, who resigned after the season to spend more time with his family, admitted that he wasn't always pleasant in practice.

"It's not easy being a coach's daughter; I just knew what she was trying to achieve and I wanted to help her get there," he said. "She handled it great. I don't know if I would've done that if a coach was dealing with me like that."

Jaclyn Heath achieved goals of winning a DAC crown and having a chance to play college basketball. One thing slipped her grasp, a sectional title for her dad.

"It was one of the worst days of my life," Heath said of the 56-48 sectional final loss to Merrillville. "It's obviously very disappointing."

Merrillville coach Amy Govert didn't fault Heath's effort.

"Heath put LaPorte on her back; she was the reason they made the comeback," Govert said of the guard, who had team highs of 17 points and five rebounds. "She made big 3s in the second half and played her heart out. She left everything she had on the floor."

She gained even higher praise from her father.

"She wasn't afraid to make plays; she showed how much she has grown," he said. "She's always put the team ahead of herself.

"It's the moment I'm most proud of."

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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