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As a young girl bouncing a basketball, Meghan Waldron set some pretty lofty goals. She wanted to be a varsity basketball player at Wheaton Warrenville South. Heck, she even thought it might be cool to make varsity as a freshman.
But now that Waldron's high school basketball days have come to an end, those goals turned out to be minuscule achievements in a brilliant four years that ended with a heartbreaking 55-54 sectional loss to Geneva last month.
Along the way, Waldron not only made the Tigers varsity squad as a freshman, but she started as soon as she was fully healthy and over the past four seasons she has led the program to a 107-19 record and an amazing 52-4 mark while claiming at least a share of four straight DuPage Valley Conference championships.
The DePaul University-bound point guard recently became the school's all-time leading scorer, but her game is so much more than scoring. On top of that, Waldron's presence and her legacy go way beyond just the basketball court.
"When I was a little girl it was like a dream to play at Wheaton Warrenville South. That's all I ever wanted to do," said Waldron, who averaged 21.4 points a game for the 28-4 Tigers, who won the DVC outright and then claimed a third regional crown in four years before coming up just short in the Addison Trail sectional semifinals. "To leave the school and have my name in the record book means a lot. But I think it was more exciting to celebrate team accomplishments over individual accomplishments."
It's both the team accomplishments and the individual accomplishments that earned Waldron another individual accomplishment: Daily Herald All-Area captain for a third consecutive season.
Ranking with the best
As a sophomore, Waldron led WW South in both scoring and rebounding. As a junior, she guided an injury-riddled team to a sectional championship and 29 victories before a supersectional loss to Huntley. Last season she somehow managed to get even better, leaving some to wonder wear she belongs in terms of the best players in DVC history.
Most debates begin withformer Naperville Central superstar Candace Parker at the top of such arguments. Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton believes Waldron has to be considered right up near the top of the conference's best ever.
"There's Candace Parker who stands out there who is probably the No. 1 DVC player," Eaton says. "But we've had some pretty good girls come through the DVC. Even though (Waldron) can't dunk the ball she is arguably right up there and if not the best, one of the best kids ever to come through the DVC."
Eaton believes DePaul coach Doug Bruno got a steal when Waldron committed to platy college basketball at DePaul, where her mother played in the 1980s. And as much as he respects her game and appreciates the kind of person Waldron has become, the Falcons coach knows his coaching job may be a little easier now with Waldron off to college. Waldron was named all-DVC each of her four high school seasons.
"Doug Bruno is going to have definitely a diamond that that he can enjoy the next four years at DePaul. She'll be very successful. She does so many things so well … she's got a bright future. It was fun to coach against her. I will tell you that. She did create some interesting challenges for us."
Eaton even joked with his coaching counterpart across town about making sure Waldron does indeed take her game to the next level next season.
"I did, jokingly, tell Rob," Eaton said. "Usually as a requirement as teachers we have to be at one of our high school graduations. But I think I will ask if I can make sure to go to the Wheaton South one to make sure she walks across the stage this year with her diploma.
"She is a great kid. What a phenomenal player she is and what a tremendous impact she has had on that program."
Waldron can shoot from the perimeter with the best, and she also has a quick first step that allows her to cut to the basket and score inside before most defenses have time to adjust. But scoring is not what she likes to do best, and she excels in every phase of the game.
With a true point guard's mentality, she loves to set teammates up for baskets, but the 5-foot-11 senior also has a knack for coming away with more than her share of rebounds. She pulled down 8.8 a game this year to climb past former Tigers standouts Keilani Moeaki and Katie Meier to become No. 1 on the school's all-time list.
"She's the school's all-time leading scorer and rebounder and she leads in assists and steals (this season)," Kroehnke said. "That pretty much says it; all-around game, no doubt.
"There's some kids out there that can put up some big numbers scoring-wise, but I think she's probably the best rebounding point guard in the state."
Waldron admits that there's a lot more to basketball than just scoring. Kroehnke always stresses rebounding and defense, and that's why this year's senior class that also includes the likes of Melinda Franke and Maggie Dansdill will be so hard to replace.
"I would never be proud of myself if I walked out of a game with like 40 points and 0 assists and 0 rebounds," Waldron said. "If I'm going to be a point guard of a team I have to get points, but I have to get my teammates involved. I have to rebound, and I have to get steals.
"That's more fun. I wouldn't want to just go out there and shoot and just get points. Points don't define the kind of player you are. It's an exciting game. There's so much to the game and I want to do everything I can to help my team win."
Coming up one game short of making it downstate in 2011-12 and then dropping a gut-wrenching sectional game to Geneva this season were tough to swallow, but Waldron knows that she and her teammates gave it their all every night over the last four seasons.
"I think my teammates and I, we all grew up together and we just hated to lose," she says. "We're just a competitive group of girls. Every single minute when we stepped on the court we were going to give it everything we had. I don't think we've ever lost by more than single digits. The games we've lost, they've always been really close. I think every team we played we gave them our best shots. We never let a team walk all over us."
Leaving a mark off the court
While Kroehnke will miss the production the program received the last four years from Waldron and the fellow talented seniors -- Erin Zappia, Dansdill, Franke and Taryn Larson -- what he'll miss just as much is the great role models they became and the leadership they provided off the court.
"The tough part of it is getting rid of this group that really set their mark on the whole program," Kroehnke said. "All five seniors, not only what they left their mark on the program in terms of wins and losses and stats, but they've done even more off the floor. From community service to doing things at school, to their work at camps, the number of young girls in middle school and elementary school who have come to watch and ask for autographs and things like that. It's a credit to those five seniors, what they've done over the last four years."
Waldron was the ringleader both on and off the court, but her game was designed to make sure her teammates were always involved.
"If you ask Meghan what makes her happy on the court the first thing she'll tell you is to have her teammates do well. When those five were hitting on all cylinders it was tough. I mean you could try and stop Meghan or slow her down, but there were other kids ready to step up, a different one each night or it could be two or three of them. Meghan was just so consistent with her game. That's the big thing. She's upped her stats ever since freshman year. She's gotten better every year.
"When your best player works harder to get better, that says a lot for what type of player she is."
Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum, who has coached in the DVC since 1988, said even his young son noticed that Waldron was special.
"My son Daniel is 7," said Nussbaum, who coached Parker before she went on to star in college at Tennessee and in the WNBA. "He's come to about 15 of our last 18 games. He keeps the book and goes with me on scouting. Last week he says, ‘Dad, are you going to play that team with No. 45 (Waldron) on it? Because if you do you're going to lose.' "
The young Nussbaum was correct as WW South locked up yet another DVC title outright that night as Waldron had a typical 25-point, 6-assist evening.
So while Waldron may be an unselfish, quiet competitor, she leaves behind a boatload of achievements and it may be some time before the DVC sees another player with so many talents -- both on and off the court.