Scullion is one-girl show at tiny Salem
This story appeared in the Northeast Ohio edition of the Jan./Feb. ESPN RISE Magazine.
It's November 2006, and Jeff Andres is presiding over his first scrimmage as head girls' basketball coach at Salem (Salem, Ohio) when the ball improbably gets wedged between the rim and backboard. Instinctively, the players head toward a rack of basketballs thinking they'll knock it loose with another ball.
Everyone, that is, except for Amy Scullion.
Then a 5-foot-11 freshman, Scullion gets a running start, jumps up and taps the ball loose with an outstretched hand.
There had been rumors Scullion possessed this kind of athletic ability. She'd shown some serious ups on the volleyball court and had accounted for about 90 percent of her middle school team's scoring. This solidified the buzz.
"Everyone's kinda like, 'What? How'd she get that down?'" Andres says. "I knew I had a special kid right there."
Scullion offers a simple explanation. "I was a little freshman," she says with a laugh. "I had to prove myself."
Scullion wasn't a completely unknown commodity, however. Her older sister, Katie, had starred for the Quakers a couple years earlier. But with one leap during the first scrimmage of her high school career, Amy established an identity all her own.
She went on to average 9.0 points and 7.4 rebounds per game as a first-year starter, and by her junior season she had upped those averages to 17.1 points and 9.4 boards per game. The 6-foot senior forward is now rated the nation's No. 44 recruit in the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100 and has signed with Ohio State. She was an All-Ohio third team pick last season after leading the Quakers to a second consecutive trip to the Division II district finals.
Add it all up, and Andres doesn't hesitate to call Scullion the best female athlete to come out of the rural community of about 12,000 residents.
"No doubt about it," the coach says. "There's been some very good ones, but she's been great. She's the greatest to ever come through here."
Perhaps because her father, Tom, played basketball in college at Mount Union, Scullion has been passionate about the sport for as long as she can remember. Some of her fondest childhood memories are of shootouts with her dad in their driveway. The two still work out together regularly and were on a quest early in the season to get their hands on a key to the school gym so they could get in some extra shots on Sundays.
Scullion is never satisfied with her game, even though she's already a mismatch for just about every opponent. Her height and jumping ability alone make her a handful in the paint, but when you add in her array of post moves it's almost unfair. Force her outside, and she's just as likely to knock down a 3-pointer as she is to break out an up-fake and drive to the hole.
She also knows how to rise to a challenge. During a game against rival Canfield as a sophomore, Scullion was matched up with then-senior Kate Popovec, who is now a sophomore at Pittsburgh. That night, Popovec needed eight rebounds to pass the 1,000-board mark for her career. She ended up with seven while mustering a season-low six points.
Scullion's skill at the defensive end could be the result of learning from all the different ways teams have tried to stop her. She's seen just about every junk defense in the book. But whether it's a box-and-one or triangle-and-two base defense or a diamond-and-one press, Scullion always finds an answer.
"You see her competitiveness, it gets your juices flowing a little bit," Andres says. "You just want to work a little harder."
For all her success, Scullion remains as humble and coachable as ever. She's central to everything Salem does, from selecting the team's unique pre-game music -- how many locker rooms are bumping both Tech N9ne and Pitbull? -- to keeping the squad upbeat during tough times.
"I tend to have a bad temper, and when I'm frustrated Amy always keeps me up," says teammate Chelsea Fuson, a junior guard. "She pushes me a lot, even at practice. When she's doing something and working hard at it, we all see that and we all pick it up. We have her back. We all benefit from her."
"We've got a lot of youngsters on the team, and it's been a little rough lately," adds senior guard Danielle Kruegel. "But Amy's always there picking us up. She's such a good motivator for us."
And basketball is only half the equation for Scullion. She was an All-Ohio Division II first team selection in volleyball this past fall after leading the Quakers to the regional semifinals. She's also busy with club volleyball from late fall until the summer, so she gets a heavy dose of both sports.
But she never uses that loaded schedule as an excuse to come to basketball practice unprepared. In fact, Andres considers her an extra member of the coaching staff.
"I'll go to her with some ideas," the coach says. "We talk a lot of X's and O's."
Not only does Scullion have a great mental grasp of the game, her athletic ability gives Andres extra flexibility when coming up with plays. For instance, alley-oops are common in the NBA and men's college basketball, but they're almost unheard of at the girls' high school level. Not so at Salem, though, where Scullion is able to sky for a lob pass and tip it in.
"That's not something you can do with a lot of females," Andres says. "Sometimes, you forget what a great athlete she is."
It's rare. But when it does happen, Scullion is usually quick to make a play that reminds everyone in the gym exactly what she's capable of.
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