YOUNGSTOWN — These are well-deserved bright times for Heidi Schlegel.
After almost five unpredictable years at Youngstown State, the 2010 Wapakoneta graduate now sits atop the Penguins’ women’s basketball program.
She’s the leading scorer and rebounder. She’s the senior captain — a mentor to seven freshmen, including Lima Senior graduate Indiya Benjamin. And best of all, she’s leading a team that is 13-3 this season. Oh, plus she was just named the Horizon League Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for Jan. 12-18 after posting 25 points and 18 rebounds in Thursday’s win against Cleveland State.
So, yeah, Schlegel is in a good place right now — although that often hasn’t been the case for the 6-foot forward since the fall of 2010.
“I know sometimes it wasn’t the most fun,” she said. “But now looking back, I’m really glad I went through all of it.”
Basically, what Schlegel has been through is two injuries, a concussion, too many missed games and a coaching change.
Coming out of Wapakoneta High in 2010 — where she helped the Redskins to the Division II state title game her junior year before being named the Northwest District Co-Player of the Year and Second-Team All-Ohio as a senior — Schlegel played in just seven games her true-freshman season thanks to a foot injury.
She then bounced back for a solid redshirt-freshman season in 2011-12, before having a challenging sophomore campaign. While YSU went 23-10, Schlegel missed 11 games — seven due to a knee injury, three to a concussion and one because of the flu.
Then, the head coach that recruited her, Bob Boldon, left the Penguins after the season for Ohio University.
“Coming here to Youngstown State, I never thought I’d go through what I’ve been through,” she said. “It just has made me who I am today. It’s made me a positive person, and I feel like I can get through a lot more now.”
Schlegel indeed got through the tough times. And her luck seemed to turn for good last season. Starting all 31 games, she averaged 20 points and eight rebounds per game. For her efforts, she was voted first-team all-conference.
This season, Schlegel is leading the Penguins — who got off to their best start since 1978-79 — with 15.1 PPG and 9.4 RPG. In addition, she’s taken the reigns of a new role.
“She’s been the leader since the summer when the (seven) freshmen got on campus and has been outstanding,” said second-year YSU head coach John Barnes. “She leads by example through her hard work and by doing things the right way on and off the court.”
Off the court, Schlegel earned her bachelor’s degree last spring in early childhood education. She also took a service trip to India in the summer of 2013 through the campus’ bible study group called Coalition for Christian Outreach.
Currently, she’s working towards her master’s degree in interdisciplinary communications. So it’s easy to understand why Barnes raves about his senior captain.
“It’s fun,” Schlegel said of being the leader. “I’m enjoying this year a lot. In years past, I’ve been so worried about winning or doing this and doing that. I think this year it’s been more relaxing.
“Obviously I still want to win, but it’s fun being a leader for seven freshmen. I’m trying to help them set the path for years to come.”
But she also has big plans for the final stretch of her YSU basketball career, which Schlegel admittedly thinks about often.
“It will go so fast — it’s already went so fast,” she said. “So I’m just trying to enjoy every single moment. …With all the adversity that I’ve been through, winning a championship would be awesome.”
Her journey to a title continues with 13 more regular season Horizon League games — the next being a home contest at 7 p.m. Thursday against Wright State — before postseason play begins.
Still, however her Penguins career concludes, Schlegel knows one thing for sure.
“I know this is where I was supposed to be,” she said. “I love Youngstown and all the people I’ve met here. I’m just really happy how it’s all turned out.”