Nicole Elmblad remembers what it’s like to be an elite recruit in Michigan, so she had plenty to say Monday during the MHSAA Reaching Higher Showcase at Milford.
A star at St. Ignace La Salle, Elmblad helped her school win the state title as a senior. Her basketball journey took her to the University of Michigan and now she’s preparing for U-M’s medical school. Last year, she was nominated for the NCAA Women of the Year award, which honors the most outstanding female student-athletes across the country.
“The biggest thing here is to have fun,” she told the players. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”
Elmblad went from starting at U-M to the bench, which frustrated her at the time. But eventually, she became a defensive stopper and complementary player.
“Honestly, I could talk about basketball all day and my experiences,” she said. “Sometimes I can ramble on. I just wanted to talk about things that are key to be a successful high school and college basketball player. I just wanted to answer questions that they had, because everyone is just looking for advice at this stage.
“When I was their age, it was just about the whole recruiting process. What is the right timeline and when should I be committing to schools? Seeing other players and doing different timelines, one thing I learned is that there is no specific timeline and that helped me as I was going through.”
Elmblad added that college basketball is a world apart from high school hoops.
“Right away; as soon as you get there you’re surrounded by some of the best basketball players from around the state and even the country,” said Elmblad. “Playing at Michigan was a pretty special experience. Great athletes and great people. As soon as you start practices and get into workouts over the summer you realize it’s like, ‘Hey, I’m no longer the best player here’ and you have to really work to make a contribution.”
Elmblad hasn’t caught the coaching bug yet with medical school on the horizon.
“Maybe one day I’ll get into high school or middle school,” said Elmblad. “For now I’m chasing other career paths. I’m working at the hospital right now at U-M and doing research.”
SEASON OF CHANGE: Kayla Belles and Ithaca made it to the Breslin Center last season, losing, 72-44, in a Class C semifinal to eventual champion Ypsilanti Arbor Prep.
Now Belles is the only returning starter on a team that also has a new coach in Ty Warczinsky.
“Our coach (Jessie Rayburn) got pregnant, so she stepped down and we have a new coach, so there has been a lot of change,” said the 6-foot-3 forward-center.
Last year as a sophomore, Belles averaged 18.3 points, 13 rebounds and 4.2 blocked shots per game.
Rayburn nudged her into the camp.
“She set the whole thing up, “ said Belles, who has offers from BYU, Central Michigan and Michigan State. “We only have one or two seniors, so I’ll have to step up. We went to all the camps this summer.
“I’m here to strengthen my skills. I try not to focus on if there are scouts or anything. Going against other good competition that’s here.”