Wirts adjusting well for Center Grove girls basketball

Rachel Wirts has long dreamed of playing college basketball — “super badly,” she says — and she knew deep down that continuing to play for a home-school team wasn’t doing much to push her toward that goal.

So this past August, she stepped into a public school environment for the first time.

The move is already paying dividends — both for her and her new team.

A 6-foot-2 sophomore, Wirts provides Center Grove with interior length that it hasn’t had in years. Coach Kevin Stuckmeyer has welcomed the change after often having had to find ways to slow opposing bigs with 5-7 and 5-8 forwards.

“We don’t have to over-scheme and get out of our traditional defense as much when she’s guarding the post,” Stuckmeyer said. “The key with Rachel is, everybody wants a 6-footer, everybody wants size, but it’s got to be the right kind of size. We’re super excited to have her because she’s what I would consider the right kind of size. That starts with her demeanor, her desire to excel and do it the right way; her coachability has been fantastic. She has an athleticism to her and a fluidity to her that allows her to play basketball and not just size that you put down low.”

Wirts has put that fluid athleticism on display in her first high school season, scoring 7.7 points per game while leading the 10-6 Trojans with 4.6 rebounds and a 62% field goal percentage. She broke out in an early-season overtime game against Hamilton Southeastern, collecting 22 points and seven boards.

That performance was exactly what prompted Wirts to come to Center Grove in the first place. Though she has plenty of quality experience on the AAU circuit and played three years of varsity ball with the Indianapolis Homeschool Wildcats (averaging 5.4 points and 6.3 rebounds in 84 games), Wirts wanted to face top competition on a more consistent basis — both in games and in practice.

She’s gotten what she asked for, even though she did endure a little bit of culture shock when she first arrived.

“It was a real big adjustment,” Wirts said. “The practices were so much harder, so much more intense — but I liked it. I liked how hard it was. I liked the intensity. I liked how coach was on our backs all the time.”

As Stuckmeyer noted, Wirts isn’t just a big body. She’s plenty comfortable stepping out onto the perimeter, where she’s a capable passer and shooter (she’s made both of her 3-point attempts so far this season).

Wirts admits that she needs to work on her ball-handling if she’s going to be able to play outside more often at the next level, but she has the luxury of time — and all of the tools she’ll need.

She just wants to sharpen them a bit over the next two years, and her coach is confident that she will.

“I believe the sky’s the limit for her if she continues to be coachable and have that desire to be great,” Stuckymeyer said.

College ball can wait, though. For now, Wirts and her Trojan teammates are looking to close out this season on a high note — and they’re eager for a potential third meeting with rival Franklin after losing the first two by three points apiece.

Center Grove’s six losses this season have come by a combined 17 points; the Trojans have been within five of every team on what ranks as one of the 20 most difficult schedules in the state. So even in defeat, they’re becoming more self-assured; they believe they’re close to a breakthrough.

“We lost by three to one of the top five teams in the state twice,” Wirts said. “And we didn’t even play our best. That definitely gives us confidence that, okay, we can beat these teams.”