Natisha Hiedeman is a force on the basketball court.
The Green Bay Southwest senior’s combination of athleticism and passion has her on the cusp of breaking the Green Bay metro all-time girls scoring record.
The 5-foot-8 guard can break the record Tuesday night at Green Bay West. She needs 15 points to surpass the mark of 1,626 points, set by Green Bay Preble’s Kenzie Perttu in 2012.
Hiedeman, who broke Southwest’s scoring record last month, is averaging 25.3 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 4.4 steals per game this season. The Marquette University recruit leads the Fox River Classic Conference in scoring and assists and likely will earn first-team all-conference accolades for a third straight year.
“She plays like a guy,” Green Bay Notre Dame sophomore guard Katelyn Morgan said. “That’s the best compliment I could give anyone. We use the example all the time that if we can guard Natisha Hiedeman, we can guard anyone. I just give her so much credit for all the hard work she’s put in.”
Perhaps the only thing brighter than the play of Hiedeman — often called T-Spoon by coaches and friends — is her personality off the court.
“She’s a people person for sure,” Southwest senior Kieran Thomas said. “She’s friends with everybody. I’ll see her in the hallway with like 50 different people. She knows everybody and everybody knows her.”
Based on how difficult it is for opponents to contain her on the court, it’s ironic that Hiedeman was in a full-body harness after birth with a hyperextended left leg.
Despite having to wear the brace for a couple of months, Hiedeman ended up crawling and walking earlier than the average toddler. By the age of 1, she already had started to dribble a toy basketball.
“She always had a ball with her,” said her mother, Shelly. “I just knew she was going to be a basketball player.”
Shelly had Natisha a month before her 20th birthday. She said it was tough being a single mom at that age, especially without a car.
“It’s been hard,” Shelly said. “But everything I’ve done, I’ve done for her. I just wanted her dreams to come true.”
Shelly was thankful to get help from a high school friend, Angie Rusk (née Gevaert), and Angie’s parents, Mike and Ann Gevaert.
Angie was a senior at Southwest when she drove Shelly to the hospital in the middle of the night to give birth to Natisha.
Shelly was baptized along with Natisha at St. Agnes Parish. She asked Angie to be Natisha’s godmother and asked Mike and Ann to be her godparents.
“I can’t imagine having a kid at 19 or 20,” Natisha said. “I love her and everything she has done for me. I know it was extremely hard for her, especially because my dad wasn’t around at that time. It was basically her by herself for a while, and then after a little bit Ann and Mike helped out. I’m extremely grateful for them, because without them, none of this would be happening at all.”
A lot of Hiedeman’s talent on the basketball court comes from her father, Sandy Cohen II.
Cohen II said basketball was his outlet growing up in Kenosha.
Those skills have rubbed off on Hiedeman and her half-brother, Sandy Cohen III, a freshman on the Marquette basketball team after an all-state career at Seymour High School.
Cohen II regularly makes trips to Milwaukee to watch his son play in addition to attending Hiedeman’s games.
“It means a lot to me because having him around makes me really, really happy, so I hope it stays like that,” Hiedeman said.
“Growing up, my dad was in and out of jail for numerous things. It’s been hard for me. I love my dad to death, and I’ll always love him, but he made a lot of mistakes when I was growing up. Now, he’s around a lot for me now.”
Hiedeman’s parents took her out to dinner for her birthday last week. She said seeing her mother and father reconcile as friends means a lot to her.
“I haven’t always been there for her,” Cohen II said. “But it’s been a blessing to see her do all this.
“I’m just happy that she gave me a second chance. Any little thing that she needs, I’m there and going to help her the best way I can. I love seeing all these accomplishments she’s doing. … She deserves it. She’s a good kid. She’s a good person. She’s growing up to be a woman and I’m happy I’m here to see that.”
Among the many words to describe Hiedeman’s athleticism, ambidexterity usually isn’t one of them.
It’s the state of being equally adept at using left and right arms or legs.
Mike Gevaert first got a sense that Hiedeman was ambidextrous when she put on his youth baseball team’s catching gear.
Hiedeman was the left-handed pitcher — and the only girl — on the team coached by Gevaert. But she wasn’t deterred by the right-handed catcher’s mitt. She put it on and threw the baseball with her right hand with ease.
“It was obvious then that she was pretty special,” Gevaert said.
There also was an instance when Hiedeman was playing first base and was hit in the chest by a ground ball that took a funny hop. She was able to grab the ball and dive for the bag to make the third out.
“She came to the dugout and collapsed and cried from the pain,” Gevaert said. “But she made sure to get that out. That was as a 7-year-old.”
Hiedeman has shown the same toughness and versatility as a three-sport high school athlete.
She has battled stress fractures and tendinitis in becoming a nine-time WIAA Division 1 state qualifier in track and field. She holds school records for the triple, long and high jumps in addition to the 100-meter hurdles. She won her first state title in the triple jump last year.
After playing volleyball as a freshman, Hiedeman has played tennis the past three years. She advanced to state last year in doubles with senior Kathryn Mason.
Hiedeman also has displayed her talents on the football field, dominating the annual girls powder-puff game during homecoming week.
“She did everything,” Thomas said. “No one can touch her — literally.”
Years before she scored a team-high 12 points in a 48-40 victory against Southern Door in her first varsity game as a freshman, Hiedeman was part of the Southwest program. She was the team’s water girl under coach Riley Woldt.
“I was the water girl here for a lot of years,” Hiedeman said. “I would always look up at that (scoring) record and think, ‘That’s going to be me one day.’ “
Hiedeman broke Trisha Ebel’s all-time scoring record at Southwest with 27 points in a victory against Sheboygan South on Jan. 30.
It was something that probably never would have happened had Casey Zakowski not decided to become the Trojans’ coach five years ago.
Starting with Woldt’s final season in 2004-05, Zakowski was the school’s fifth girls basketball coach in six years. The constant change played a part in a stretch of nine straight losing seasons, including finishing 10th or worse in the first five years of the newly formed FRCC.
Southwest was a dominant program in the late 1990s, winning shares of six straight Fox River Valley Conference titles from 1995-2000. Most of those were won with the help of Ebel, who from 1995-98 set the Trojans’ scoring record with 1,511 points and led the team to the WIAA D1 state semifinals as a senior.
Zakowski, who was head coach of the Southwest boys team for 15 years, became the girls coach in 2010 when his oldest daughter, Abby, was a junior.
Looking at the youth program, Zakowski immediately noticed Hiedeman and had her practice with the junior varsity as an eighth-grader.
Zakowski knew Hiedeman might be thinking of enrolling at a different high school due to the constant coaches changes that had taken place at Southwest. But he was unaware that Hiedeman had a close relationship with the Gevaerts, who Zakowski knew well after coaching their son, Marcus.
“When I got the girls job here, that connection helped T-Spoon to stay here,” said Zakowski
Hiedeman — nicknamed T-Spoon after ex-WNBA star Teresa Weatherspoon — wears No. 5 because it was Marcus Gevaert’s number in high school.
She also wears down Gevaert by reminding him how she beat him once in a Nerf game of P-I-G.
“We’ve probably played like 10,000 games,” said Gevaert, a 2003 Southwest graduate. “But that’s the one she always brings up.
“I’ve never seen somebody hate losing so much. She would be bawling every single time, but two seconds later, we had to play again. You could tell early on that she was determined to win and get better.”
Hiedeman felt she improved last offseason by playing with the Milwaukee Playground Elite AAU team.
“The game has slowed down for her,” Zakowski said. “That game against Bay Port (last week) was incredible. Some of the shots she made. It’s like, ‘wow.’ She had one spin move in the second half that we ended up playing back about four or five times in the team meeting. She’s got great body control and is just a tremendous athlete.”
Hiedeman scored a career-high 37 points in the 59-57 victory against the Pirates. But her favorite play from the game was watching teammate Toni Champion make a game-clinching steal at the end.
“When I see other players on my team scoring and doing good things, it makes me really happy,” Hiedeman said. “We’re probably not like a typical team. We do stuff out of the ordinary. Our team camaraderie this year is amazing. All the girls on the team are practically my sisters.”
The Trojans have enjoyed three straight winning seasons and have beaten each team in the FRCC at least once in that span.
After having its season end with D1 playoff losses to De Pere twice and Sheboygan North last year, Hiedeman is optimistic about making a state run now that Southwest is in the D2 field.
Regardless, Hiedeman can take solace in knowing the program she helped turn around will continue to have talent in its youth system because of her. The impact she is making on some kids goes beyond basketball.
“There was a mom who came up to me and said, ‘Thank you so much for being my kid’s inspiration,’ ” Hiedeman said. “I take that to heart because it really means a lot to me.
“My life could have definitely had a negative outcome. But, regardless of the situation, I always try to stay positive. That’s basically what I try to do.”