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The Drill: Van Roekel’s competitive fire helps fuel Lady Jays

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WORTHINGTON -- It’s great to be a basketball fan of the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Lady Jays. One of the pleasures last year and this year is getting to watch former Hills-Beaver Creek High School standout Avery Van Roekel.

Sometimes your eyes might need a rest, however. You’re likely to wince when you see her crashing into walls, going down hard to the floor while being tangled up by a rival for a rebound, and getting caught in other dangerous situations.

Van Roekel says she’s always trying to make a play and, yes, sometimes she doesn’t always think of consequences. The adrenaline is always flowing while the game is going on.

Now a sophomore at the school, Van Roekel just loves being around the sports she loves. When she’s not making things happen for the Lady Jays, she enjoys assistant coaching in high school volleyball and basketball.

When she was a freshman at Minnesota West under head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, Van Roekel -- a 5-11 forward -- already had exceptional all-around skills. But she wasn’t called upon to be a leader offensively, since the Jays already returned four other fine offensive threats.

Now, all four of last year’s leaders have graduated. And Van Roekel knows she’s got to be more of a leader in her sophomore season, which includes a stepped-up presence on the offensive end.

That undoubtedly will lead to more bumps and bruises, but the former Patriot is determined that the Lady Jays produce another fine campaign.

Last year, the team was stunned with a home loss in the regional finals, which prevented them from qualifying for the national tournament. “It’s still a hard thing, but I think it taught me that even when you work hard, things don’t always go your way,” she said.

The Globe interviewed Avery for The Drill recently. You can go online to see the video at Here’s a sample of the interview:

QUESTION: How did you come to love basketball?

ANSWER: “My mom put me in basketball when I was really little, and she always told me, ‘Stick it out for the season and don’t quit in the middle of anything.’ I just loved it right away. It’s something that I think I had a little bit of natural talent for. The more I worked at it, the better I got.”

QUESTION: Have you got a good story or a favorite memory to share?

ANSWER: “I think my favorite high school memory was getting my 1,000th point. Our photographer actually took a picture, and it’s of me handing my 1,000-points ball to my mom and my grandma and my grandpa. And they were crying.”

QUESTION: You seem to have no fear, jumping, leaping and diving all over the court to make a play or get a loose ball. It’s led to a lot of bumps and scrapes that, I’m sure, make your fans wince. Have you always been so fearless?

ANSWER: “I guess I’ve always been known as the player who runs into walls, dives on the floor, does anything to try and make a play. I guess I’ve always been that way as long as I remember. I’d rather get a bruise or a cut, knowing that I tried.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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