As it turns out, Courtney Ekmark did not have the chance to watch her future teammates take care of business Sunday at Rutgers.
She was at home, helping out like a big sister, since her brother Andrew’s club team was there having a meeting. But she did record the 94-64 win, UConn’s 25th straight, and will watch as soon as time allows.
Still, it’s not like Ekmark, the 6-foot guard from Phoenix, has a lot of time. A member of UConn’s four-player freshman Class of 2014 and Arizona’s Gatorade Player of the Year last season, she is not playing high school basketball as a senior.
Instead, she is being home-schooled, and competitively refined, as she prepares to bring her multi-faceted game to UConn next season.
“You just wait and see,” said Bret McCormick, the editor of the All Star Girls Basketball website. “She is going to be one of Geno Auriemma’s favorite players. She reminds me so much of Kelly Faris, only with a better shot as a younger player.
“And she is working so hard on her athleticism, body and basketball skills. I love her as a player. She is going to be great at UConn.”
Aside from a tender ankle and the removal of her wisdom teeth last week, Ekmark says she’s never felt better. And next year, Ekmark will join UConn, already with a slew of credentials playing for St. Mary’s national championship program.
But before she arrives, she wanted to make sure she was prepared.
“And it’s going great,” Ekmark said. “I’ve been enjoying it; playing a lot of basketball, working out a lot. I’ve just been spending a ton of time working to improve my body. And it’s been a lot of fun and very satisfying so far.”
With the help of her father, Curtis, her former coach at St. Mary’s, a timeline and schedule for her improvement and enhancement was developed.
Normally, on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the guard goes to work out with her trainer – former NBA coach Frank Johnson – her father and her brother, who is 16 and a 6-foot-1 high school sophomore.
She played in a boys fall league with her brother’s AAU team and now is playing in a men’s league at her local recreation center.
“The idea is to make everything about myself tighter, quicker, stronger and faster,” she said. “Playing exclusively with males is different, but to be honest to get used to it very quickly. You do have to adapt your game to make sure you play well against them. It’s really good, perfect for me at this point.
“People ask me all the time if I miss playing basketball. But I am playing it every day. I play more than I ever did in high school, but the only difference is that the competition is consistently good now.”
Ekmark also traveled to Texas recently to work out for a few days with former NBA player John Lucas, who has turned the development of young players into his life’s work.
“Now what happens is that I will start a pick-up session with the idea of focusing on just one thing,” Ekmark said. “It’s been nice to just be able to tightly focus in on things in that way.”
Ekmark reiterated that chosing the path she did was a decision designed to prepare her as much as possible for what Geno Auriemma and his staff has in store for her, Gabby Williams, Sadie Edwards and Kia Nurse next year.
“I just wanted to enhance what skills I already had,” Ekmark said. “My first three years of high school were great because I got the chance to play against future collegians every year in practice. It was good for me. But I just wanted to spend one last year to get ready to go [to UConn].”
Ekmark hasn’t seen any of the UConn coaches since Auriemma and Shea Ralph did her home visit in September. But she plans on visiting the campus, likely in time to see the Louisville game Feb. 9 at Gampel Pavilion.
“The whole idea of playing for them totally excites me,” she said. “I can’t wait. It’s awesome to think about. They way they play, the idea they are never satisfied … That’s the kind of place you want to play.”