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Central Catholic's Denhart always up for tall tasks on basketball court

February 24, 2013
Lafayette Central Catholic High School

Emily Denhart defers to the Central Catholic girls basketball roster when asked how tall she is.

It lists Denhart as a 5-foot, 10-inch junior.

Those rosters always exaggerate the heights of basketball players, much like football rosters embellish weight.

“My real height is 5-9,” Denhart says with a smile.

But as Denhart has shown in a season where she has transitioned from guard to a post player, the game is not as much about how tall you are as it is how much you want to succeed.

By those measurements, Denhart is the tallest player on the floor. She averages seven rebounds a game, shuts down dynamic scorers, is capable of scoring 20 points on any given night — as she did in Saturday’s regional championship — and just about anything else asked of her from one of her coaches or teammates.

“I said at the beginning of the year that she is the most athletic person I’ve ever coached in girls basketball. She can do it all,” first-year CC coach Craig DeVault said.

Denhart learned seven years ago you didn’t have to be the biggest player to be the baddest.

She watched Kathleen Mills, an undersized forward who ripped rebounds out of the air like a 6-footer, lead the Knights to their only state championship.

“She has a really good basketball IQ and she is strong and a really good all-around athlete,” said sophomore Maggie Bobillo, who takes the advice of Denhart to learn new post moves, even though Denhart is just learning post moves herself. “She uses her speed and strength to her advantage.”

As a freshman, Denhart was the point guard on a team that had plenty of size with Sami Gruse and Molly King. Denhart was a wing player when this season started, but DeVault saw the athletic mismatches he could take advantage of offensively with her in the post.

Inside, she can score at will, he says, then references her third-quarter domination against North Vermillion in Saturday’s regional championship.

As offensively skilled as Denhart is, she prides herself on the other side of the ball.

“Defense is my favorite part of basketball, and I love the challenge every game to be put on one of the better players on the opposing team,” she said.

If Denhart is to replicate the run made by Mills and her teammates in 2006, the Knights will need every bit of defensive help they can get.

They’re going up against a Class A juggernaut in Fort Wayne Canterbury that has won four state titles in the last five years. Canterbury averages more than five points per game than the second-highest scoring team in the state.

Those stats appeal to Denhart, who doesn’t back down from a challenge.

She used to play her brother in the driveway outside her house. The object, you would think, would be to outscore the opposition.

Instead, she would watch her brother try to drive to the basket relentlessly, only to be stopped in his tracks by his sister.

“Every time he got the chance to drive the lane, I did my best to make sure it wouldn’t happen,” Denhart said. “Playing against my dad when I was little, he always told me defense is a lot more important than scoring. Scoring will happen, but defense you have to put a lot of heart into it.

“I love getting in people’s head. My favorite is when we go box-and-one and my job is just to stay with someone and make sure they don’t get the ball back and if they do, they aren’t scoring.”

Offense comes naturally, Denhart says, and her 13 points per game average shows that she can certainly score. But defense, that takes a lot of hard work and Denhart has never been one to take the easy way out. It’s all the more reason she is excited that the No. 1 team in the state stands in CC’s way of making it to the state championship game next week.

“Most student-athletes, they just want to score and shoot the basketball,” DeVault said. “When you have someone who wants to play defense, which their coach wants them to play defense, that’s really special.

“She has those long arms, she is as athletic as anybody and she is quick so she can stay on anybody maybe in the state.”

We’ll find out Saturday.

Tags Lafayette Central Catholic High School • Publisher
Hoosier Conference • Tagged
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