Even before the start of the 2011-2012 USD women’s basketball season, senior forward Amber Hegge was predicted to have a standout year for the Coyotes when she was selected to the Summit League Preseason All-Conference team for USD’s first year in the conference.
At the men’s and women’s basketball Media Day on Nov. 3, women’s head coach Ryun Williams said, “Amber needs to have a good year for us. That is no secret.”
And there is no doubt that Hegge is exceeding expectations so far this season.
Already Hegge has been named the Summit League Player of the Week on three occasions, Nov. 22, Dec. 20, and Jan. 24, and ranks number one in the conference in double-double performances with eight.
Recently, Hegge surpassed the 1,500 point mark in the win against Southern Utah, becoming only the fifth player in USD’s history to reach this
“She is obviously scoring the ball well for us, and she is a very versatile defender,” Williams said. “She is just a good play maker. I think she is very difficult to guard because she can play inside and outside.”
Hegge’s many strengths are exemplified by her contribution in the Coyote stat book. She currently leads the team in three major categories with 389 points, 182 rebounds, and 35 steals with seven regular season games still remaining.
“Amber brings everything to the court. She is a leader, she can play any position, she can score, she can play defense, she can make the right pass; she can do it all,” freshman guard Kelly Stewart said. “She just brings everything.”
Because of her versatility and awareness on the court, Hegge is able to allow her teammates to also contribute in big ways.
“She is really fun to play with,” sophomore forward McKayla Knudson said. “A lot of the other team’s defense will dedicate to her so she is really good at setting up like she is going to the hoop with five players’ heads turned toward her, and it gives everyone else opportunities to cut, slash, and spot up at the 3-point line. It is really comforting having her on the court too because she is always very poised and knows what she is doing.”
Hegge is having a tremendous year for the Coyotes, who are 15-6 overall, and Williams attributes that to her exceptional work ethic.
“She works on every part of her game. She is constantly in the gym working on her shooting and whether it be free throws, three-pointers, her pull-up game, or the low-post game, she is a tireless worker, “Williams said. “That is why she is a very good basketball player because she works harder than anybody we’ve ever had.”
But Hegge’s coaches, teammates and conference aren’t the only ones acknowledging her basketball performances this year.
On Feb. 6, College Sports Madness, a website that recognizes the top players across the nation in each conference every week, picked Hegge as the Player of the Week for the Summit League. She was chosen after the Coyotes’ 60-54 win over the University of Missouri-Kansas City on Feb. 4 where Hegge scored 27 points and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Because Hegge is inarguably one of USD’s all-time top players, Williams is thankful for the opportunity to coach such an athlete.
“The mark of a good player, a really good player, is a player that makes the people around them better, and she does do that,” Williams said. “Kids like Amber don’t come along all that often and when you get an opportunity to coach them, it just becomes extremely fun and rewarding.”
Watch for Amber wearing jersey number 22 and the rest of the USD women’s basketball team in their upcoming game on Feb. 11 against North Dakota State at 5 p.m. in the DakotaDome.