Meghan Waldron of Wheaton Warrenville South captains the Daily Herald's all-area girls basketball team for DuPage County.
Bev Horne | Staff Photographer
There Rob Kroehnke was, sitting on the the Wheaton Warrenville South bus, passing the time on one of many road trips his basketball team takes every year.
A most surprising voice from the back belting out song stirred him.
"Is that Waldron?" Kroehnke asked, turning around in disbelief.
"Meghan is very quiet, doesn't say a lot," said Kroehnke, who's known his sophomore point guard for five years, "but when she does talk she's very loud. When she has something to say, she'll let you know."
Waldron's play on the court this winter sure spoke volumes.
She tipped off the season by scoring 23 points to beat Rockford Boylan. It only got better.
Waldron went to to average 14.6 points, 8.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3.2 steals a game, the only girl to finish in the top five in DuPage County in each of those statistical categories. It added up to a 28-4 season, a repeat co-championship of the DuPage Valley Conference and WW South's first sectional final appearance since 1997.
Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton estimates he saw WW South 25 times this year, live or on film, which makes him as good a judge of Waldron's ability as anyone. Just don't remind him he has two more years of Waldron tape to watch.
"The thing that is most impressive is she does whatever her team needs from her to win that particular game," Eaton said. "There wasn't an aspect of the game she wasn't good at."
That all-around excellence makes Waldron the captain of the 2011-12 DuPage County All-Area girls basketball team. She is the third WW South captain, joining Charliss Ridley and Keilani Moeaki.
A magnet for the ball
At times Waldron appears to drift on the court, watching and waiting, never far from the action. That might correlate to her soccer background; Waldron played for the Team Chicago travel club until her freshman year.
Like Linus found security in his blanket, a basketball seems to inevitably gravitate toward Waldron's safe hands. She knows what to do with it from there, usually slipping her way to the basket or locating an open teammate.
"She's always in the right place at the right time," Eaton said, adding half-joking, "the ball seems to have a magnet. Wherever it is, she finds it."
"I just try to go where the ball goes," Waldron said, "try to anticipate where it's going to be."
That innate ability most surfaces on the boards. Waldron is one of the area's best rebounders, which you normally wouldn't expect from a lanky point guard. Much of her success comes from good position, or simple geometry reinforced by her mom.
"When somebody is shooting, odds are it will come the opposite way," said Jean Fitzpatrick-Waldron, who starred at Willowbrook and later played basketball collegiately at DePaul. "Meghan just has a natural feel for the game. She loves to crash the boards."
Development started at home
Jean laughs when asked if Meghan's game bears any resemblance to mom's.
"She passes the ball a lot more than her mother ever did," said Jean, a 1982 Willowbrook graduate. "She's much faster and she has a much better sense of the court."
Jean said she's dragged Meghan to DePaul games since she was a baby and yes, Meghan has attended Doug Bruno's camps. Meghan doesn't rule out a basketball future in Lincoln Park. The Waldrons encouraged their children to try athletics, and Jean estimates Meghan first picked up a basketball in preschool. Older brother Michael played volleyball at WW South, younger sibling Matthew is Kroehnke's film man.
Kroehnke coached Waldron, fellow sophomore Maggie Dansdill and the rest at Edison Middle School, so he knew the talent on the way. Just as impressive, that group's intuition for the game was stuff "you just do not see in seventh grade."
Sure enough, the last two years the Tigers have morphed from a grind-it-out, first-team-to-40-points style into a high-octane, trapping, team with deceptively quick and instinctive Waldron the maestro of it all.
Waldron's high school career started quietly. She missed the first five games as a freshman because of a back injury suffered playing soccer, and didn't break the starting lineup until Christmas 2010. She went on to average a modest 7.8 points and 4.6 rebounds for a 22-7 team. Kroehnke knew more was coming.
Waldron worked on her game over the summer playing Lady Lightning AAU ball with Gassensmith, Geneva's Ashley Santos and several Montini girls. Her confidence grew, and it showed.
Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum called Waldron "the most improved player he's seen this year" after WW South dismantled Nussbaum's Redhawks in December.
"Her freshman year she was really fast and out of control," Nussbaum said. "Her sophomore year she was really fast and completely under control. She's tough to stop because she is just so fast."
"The amazing thing is that she's still learning," Kroehnke said. "She definitely hasn't reached her full potential. At times you have to keep reminding yourself that she's still a sophomore."
Classy on the court
Dansdill and Waldron have been friends since the first grade, back when both had dreams of playing in the WNBA. Dansdill marvels at Waldron's skills but added that the ability doesn't affect Waldron's demeanor.
"She's probably the least cocky person I know, super humble," Dansdill said. "Just talking to her, you would have no idea the talent she has."
When Jean is not rebounding for Meghan at Lifetime Fitness, mom said her middle child will volunteer at the hospital where Jean is a pediatric cardiac nurse. Or Meghan will bake cupcakes for their church to give to PADS.
When it comes to basketball, Meghan tries to be respectful, reasoning that "coaches don't like when you talk back." Not surprisingly, Waldron counts modest Bulls guard Derrick Rose among her basketball heroes. Like Rose, Waldron's the type of point guard who would prefer to set up a teammate.
"Not only is she a great basketball player, but she's just a classy kid off the court. Truly a class kid," Eaton said. "In all the games and all the film I've seen not once have I seen her complain about officiating, trash talk - not one time. She hasn't done one thing to cast a bad light on her program. She exemplifies leadership."
Wheaton Warrenville South High
Conference: DuPage Valley
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