Gutsy Heater on path to greater national attention

Brenna Heater will hit the summer circuit after an ankle injury kept her off the court last year. Hoopgurlz.com

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Her teammates and coaches had long since departed, but Brenna Heater remained collapsed on the Ashland High School bench, her head spinning and stomach gurgling. Doctors had advised her against playing with such symptoms, which likely indicated a slight concussion. Heater had taken a shot in the face the night before, probably suffering a slight fracture in the process.

"I felt I needed to play," Heater said. "This is the state tournament."

With a woozy Heater striking for 17 points and 12 rebounds, Ashland beat Bend 52-45 in the Oregon State 5A Championships Thursday in the Chiles Center at the University of Portland. Unexpectedly, the game was in the consolation bracket. Heater had been clear-headed and on fire the night before, delivering 36 points and 14 rebounds, but the Grizzlies were upset by Willamette 55-48 in overtime.

This is Brenna Heater to a tee, actually -- a conventionally unconventional junior post. She is 6-foot-3 with mass, though not yet chiseled, but is a fluid athlete with the speed and ballhandling skills of a perimeter player. Though good enough to be ranked No. 29 in the 2009 class by HoopGurlz.com, she does not yet enjoy widespread, national renown because she hails from a place, Ashland, far more famous for its Shakespeare Festival than its ability to churn out elite college prospects.

And one other thing you should know about Heater: She wants to play in the Pac-10. Anywhere, that is, but in the state of Washington.

"I don't like the rain," Heater explained.

Heater has made unofficial visits to Oregon and Utah, with plans for Cal the weekend after next, after which she'd also like to drop in on USC, Stanford and Arizona State. Though she wants to stay West so her family can watch her play, Heater said she also may visit Louisville and Oklahoma, both of whom have shown interest in her.

"You never know," she said, "I could visit and they could be my fit."

You don't. Heater was absent from the club scene last summer because of a torn ligament in her right ankle that continues to plague her. She will have surgery on the ankle after Ashland's season concludes and plans to play for a club team that plays more of a national schedule.

The likely result is a list of college options beyond just the Pac-10. Heater does, after all, have unexpected skills for a player her size. She can dribble the ball well enough, for example, to attack the rim from the wings and corners, as well as provide relief against defensive pressure. When she gets the ball in the attack zone, she rarely hesitates and explodes to the basket for easy finishes. Heater also has an accurate mid-range game which she plans to expand into a full-fledged perimeter attack.

Heater is an engaging, animated teenaged girl, not the shy and passive type more typical of girls who still are growing, emotionally, into their uncommon size.

"I have all the motivation in the world to get better," she said. "Everyone, even if they're at their peak, can still go higher. I want to play basketball and be the best I can be. That's what I've always wanted."

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