As a freshman, there was a time when Nia Pappas didn't believe in her abilities as a point guard.
"It got pretty bad," she said.
But now it's pretty good.
Make that pretty great.
Pappas will become the first female from Palatine High School since 2003 to play Division I basketball.
The 5-foot-7 point guard has committed to Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, nearly 13 years since former Pirates standout Karen Hagberg signed with Illinois.
Pappas has started every game for Palatine the last three seasons. The start of her run, in her freshman year, wasn't easy.
"But my high school coaches (Leslie Schock and her father Ed, an assistant) made me really smart offensively and more of a leader. I deeply thank all the coaches for making me who I am today. They made a huge impact on my life."
Pappas has had a huge impact the last three years as the Pirates starting point guard. She was the top scorer in the Mid-Suburban League West last season, averaging 14 points against league foes, including a career-high 26 in a 45-39 overtime win over Hoffman Estates.
She also rang up 22 with 6 3-pointers in a 39-27 win over Deerfield.
Shock, a former Division I player herself for Northwestern, is excited to have Pappas running her offense one last season.
And then it's on to Indianapolis.
"I am so happy for Nia," Schock said. "She has worked so incredibly hard for the opportunity to play Division I basketball. Ever since I have known Nia this has been her goal and this couldn't happen to a more deserving young woman."
Playing D-I basketball has been a longtime goal for Pappas.
"It has always been a dream of mine," she said. "A lot of people doubted that I would play D-I but I wanted to prove them wrong. My advice to people out there who have been told they can't do something is to never stop working because if you work hard, dreams come true and never let negative words get the best of you."
It's all positive now for Pappas, who says she ultimately thanks God every day for blessing her with the talent to play basketball.
"My parents and my family were the best positive role models in my life but the coaches who made me the player I am today on an off the court I will never forget," she said.
"John Ulrich and Jack Lloyd taught me almost everything I know about the game and how to be a better person. Derril Kipp and Reggie Dawson made me a better point guard and offensively more aware and believed in me when I didn't."
Pappas began playing basketball in kindergarten in a Rolling Meadows park district league. She lived in Rolling Meadows until the third grade, when her family moved to Palatine.
"I used to watch the Bulls games with my dad (George) and was really intrigued with the sport, so I asked him to sign me up for it," Nia said.
George loved football and played in a league while attending Steinmetz High School. Nia's mom Betty ran track at Foreman High School.
"It's funny though," said Nia, who has three younger sisters. "Neither of my parents played basketball. I was the first in the family."
And she will be the first in her family to play a D-I sport while studying education.
"What most attracted me to Indiana-Purdue was its coaching staff, Pappas said. "Coaching is really important to me and I liked how nice they were but also I knew they were extremely intelligent with the game.
"I bonded with all of them but especially the head coach (Austin Parkinson) who played point guard as well (at Purdue). So he understands how it is. The college itself is a good size for me and its two and a half hours away -- not to close and not too far."
Wisconsin-Whitewater senior forward Chrissy Tooren (Hoffman Estates) was named a UW-Whitewater Wal-Mart "Athlete of the Week" for her performance against University of Dubuque.
Tooren accounted for one of the 2 goals that Whitewater scored. Tooren scored in the 50th minute increasing the lead to 2-0. The goal is the 28th in Tooren's career and places her eighth in the Whitwater record books.
North Central College freshman Laura Kluk (Palatine) was selected as a College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin defensive player of the week.
Kluk handled all of the setting duties for North Central as the Cardinals hit .350 or better in each match at the tournament.
She also posted 6 aces against Manchester, the highest single-match total for a North Central player this season. Kluk added 43 assists and 10 digs against Principia. For the week, she averaged 11 assists and 1.69 digs per set.
One day before Team USA takes the course for the 39th annual Ryder Cup, St. Viator junior Dana Gattone of Addison will take her shots at the historic Medinah Country Club.
Gattone, who plays for Mick Drewes' St. Viator girls' golf team, earned a spot as one of 32 finalists in the Ryder Cup Youth Skills Challenge championships.
The Ryder Cup Youth Skills Challenge is a summer-long skills competition that includes a drive, chip and putt contest, and culminates in a final showdown at the site of the Ryder Cup.
Sponsored by the Illinois PGA, local events began in June with more than 3,000 junior golfers from across the state.
Gattone advanced to the finals after winning her local and regional event held Aug. 11 at Cog Hill in Lemont.
In making the event, Gattone will have something of a home-field advantage, since she and her family are members at Medinah, where she grew up playing in its Junior Golf program.
As a standout high school golfer, Gattone earned conference medals from the East Suburban Catholic Conference as a freshman and sophomore. Last fall she finished 11th at the high school state finals.
Gattone also earned recognition from the village of Addison and the Joliet Diocese for an innovative recycling project she and her classmates completed in eighth grade.
Their efforts earned them the "Green Youth Award" from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, as well as national recognition.
They also earned the "President's Environmental Youth Award" and second place from the National Science Teachers Association in a competition sponsored by the Siemens Foundation and Discovery Education.
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