Fullerton: DePaul Recruit Podkowa Shined on Chicago Prep Scene

Fullerton Stop IconBy Matt Harder and Keith Simpson
The Red Line Project

Posted: Sunday, March 11, 2012

Megan Podkowa, a senior at Trinity High School in River Forest, has always had a passion for basketball.

Fueled by her father’s early advice, she transitioned from a recreational player, to a competitive and driven individual. Part of that transition was due to the relationship she’s developed with DePaul University Women’s Basketball Coach Doug Bruno.

Podkowa was introduced to Bruno by way of her current head coach, Ed Stritzel, who played for him in college. At Bruno’s annual youth basketball clinics and camps, Podkowa became acclimated to his style, his demeanor, and his passion for the sport of basketball. She’s been aDePaul basketball fan ever since her first camp in the fifth grade.

"I watch almost every game," she said. "If I don’t go to them then I watch them on TV or online. They’re doing a great job right now and I can’t wait to get there.”

Podkowa decided early on that she wanted to pursue college athletics, and since her sophomore year at Trinity, she’s been recruited by several schools, including DePaul, Yale, Indiana, Marquette and Loyola. She said her early interest in DePaul stuck with her through her career as a Blazer, and she signed with the Blue Demons in November.

But before suiting up for DePaul, Podkowa had one more season left at Trinity.

Stritzel brought his team to new heights in the 2010-11 season, when they entered the elite rankings in Illinois, as well as some national nods from various prep-sports media outlets. This year, Trinity was ranked as high as 23rd in the nation by USA Today and MaxPreps.com, and No. 3 in the state by MaxPreps and the Chicago Sun-Times.

In reference to Stritzel’s impact, Podkowa said: “God, he’s taught me so much. He’s been coaching me since I was in third grade. I think staying disciplined, listening to the coach, taking away everything that they can give me [and that] defense wins games. That’s definitely the biggest part that he’s taught me while here.”

Joseph Faron, an assistant coach to Trinity’s junior varsity and varsity basketball team, said Podkowa is a quiet, calm leader who rarely smiles in game situations, which is a stark contradiction to her demeanor at practice. A 6-foot, 1-inch forward, she glides around the court, acting as the floor general, even though she’s not a ball-handler, Faron said.

“She never complains at referees for bad calls, never questions her coach’s decision making, and is always vocal with her team before, after, and during games,” Faron said.

The Trinity Blazers started off this season winning seven games in a row before their first encounter with Whitney Young, a public school in Chicago. Young has consistently been ranked above Trinity in both state and national polls created by USA Today, ESPN Preps Blog, and MaxPreps.com. After a 62-47 loss to Young, Trinity won an additional 20 games consecutively before meeting them again in the sectional round of the IHSA State Tourney, played at Lyons Township on Feb 23.

It would be her last game as a Blazer. Podkowa finished with 12 points, seven rebounds, five steals, and four assists. The Blazers had multiple opportunities to bring the game to overtime, or even for the win, but shot 1–for-5 in the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.

Trinity finished the season 30-2, and Stritzel voiced his frustration after the game when he said: “The IHSA is so screwed up. They got Whitney Young, Bolingbrook and Trinity in the same sectional and super [sectional. We knew it going ahead so we decided to stay positive with it and let the chips fall where they may.“

Whitney Young went on to win the Class 4A State Championship on March 3, against Edwardsville, 63-51. The Dolphins finished with a perfect record.

While things didn’t go as hoped, Podkowa has since shifted her focus to what lies ahead. Which, aside from spring sports, is a college basketball career for a celebrated women’s program in DePaul University.

Chicago as a recruiting pipeline has not necessarily panned out for the DePaul men’s team, but Bruno has taken advantage of his contacts in the area to produce some of the best women’s recruiting classes in recent years. This year ESPN.com ranks his 2012 recruiting class, including Podkowa, as 23rd in the country.

Podkowa is a three-time all-area player according to ESPN.com’s Prep’s Blog, and is 2012’s 44th overall at the wing position. She has committed to play for the Blue Demons next season and expects to get some early action.

“[Bruno has] talked to me a little about playing. I’d probably play a three there so I have to work on my shot a little more. I have to work on…defending perimeters, getting quicker up and down the court. He said if I keep working, if I keep pushing myself then I could get some playing time there as a freshmen, so I’m excited.”

Podkowa has achieved other honors, awards, and accolades throughout her career, including local and national exposure, season and career school scoring and rebounding titles and Prep Athlete of the Month by the Chicago Tribune

Podkowa said she thinks that athletics will pose the biggest difficulty in her college transition. However, she is excited by the opportunity to diversify her group of friends in college, as she currently attends an all-girl Catholic High School.

“I think it's going to be athletics, definitely the faster pace of the game, we don’t do any lifting and not really intense conditioning here, so I think it will be that aspect of college that will really challenge me,” she said.

High schools sports don’t get the same buzz and attention as the collegiate or professional levels, but Podkowa has had her share of the limelight. While some young players would grow arrogant, Podkowa remains humbled by her career at Trinity.

She reflected upon her favorite part of her high school basketball career when she said: “I think probably just the environment that I’m in, like I work at the park district…I was [refereeing] there over the weekend and Bruno’s son was actually one of the coaches. A ton of people came up to me there and were like, ‘Oh, we’re so excited for you.’ They saw me on TV, people in school… I walk in; girls were clapping for me in the class, so…really it’s a great experience. Its exciting knowing how many people are there for me and cheering us on.”

ESPN.com recently published the Chicagoland 2011-2012 All-Area Team, which included Podkowa for the third time in a row.

Stritzel was quoted as saying: “Megan is the best basketball player I’ve ever been associated with. I’ve coached in college for many years and high school for six, and I’ve never been around a better all-around basketball player.” 

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