VALPARAISO | Once in a while, a basketball player can even take her own coaches by surprise.
Such is the case for Valparaiso junior Heather Fetla, who transformed from an end-of-the-bench sub into a sharpshooting starter over the course of a summer. For the 8-9 Vikings, Fetla is a revelation.
“We’re still a team that might be looking for our identity to some extent, but with Heather we know exactly what to expect,” coach Joe Otis said. “She’s done a great job for us, and her value to the team is just as much defensively as it is offensive because she typically guards the other team’s best player. She’s just done an exceptional job in terms of working at it.”
Fetla’s transformation isn’t a story of overnight success. The junior has put in the hours and continues to do so; she was the first one in the gym before practice the morning after a 60-29 defeat at Times No. 2 Lake Central.
“She’s relentless. She’s a great athlete; she’s got one of those motors that just runs all the time,” Otis said. “She’s really worked hard to improve her shooting. She was struggling there for a while, but (assistant coach) Jack Gabor worked with her on her balance and got her straightened out.”
Gabor provided the guidance, but it was Fetla who put in the hard work and asked the important questions.
“She wants to do things the right way,” Gabor said. “She’s always texting me, asking me questions. You see that she’s the first one in the gym after (the Lake Central loss) — and I’m almost surprised she didn’t call me earlier asking me to let her in.”
Fetla’s hard work paid off with a career-high 18 points against Michigan City, a game in which she hit six 3-pointers.
“I think I was more into that game and more set into my shots to make that many,” Fetla said. “I think it’s good because most of the time I’m ready and set to shoot the 3 more than to try to make a layup."
Between the junior’s vastly improved 3-point shooting and her lock-down defense, Otis believes Valparaiso wouldn’t be close to .500 without Fetla’s influence. A challenging schedule and disappointing season have worn on the Vikings, but it has also brought the team closer together.
“It has been tough,” Fetla said, “but I think we all got better as a team, worked more as a team. We know more about each other, so we are better together.”
Heading into her senior season, Fetla and the coaches would like the guard to improve her ball handling. It’s a progression all three are looking forward to working toward.
“I’m glad we’re going to have her for another year,” Gabor said. “She’s just so much fun to coach. She cracks me up all the time.”
Fetla’s journey has been a source of pride for the coaches, who look forward to seeing what more will come.
“You can just tell when you’re around Heather Fetla that she loves basketball,” Otis said. “She’s become a great shooter through a lot of hard work. I’m really proud of her.”