By John Antonik for MSNsportsNET.com
January 28, 2008
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – From the first time Mike Carey saw Liz Repella play high school basketball he knew that she was a perfect fit for his West Virginia women’s program.
“I just loved the way she played so hard,” Carey said. “Whatever happened she was always in the middle of it.”
Today, Repella is in the middle of it for the No. 12-rated Mountaineers. The freshman’s role on the team has taken on added importance because of Meg Bulger’s uncertain status after injuring her knee against Marshall.
Against Georgetown last Saturday afternoon, the 5-11 guard came off the bench and made 3 of 6 from the floor including a pair of 3-point shots to help the Mountaineers to a 20-point halftime lead. Repella finished the game with 9 points and four rebounds. She scored a career-high 13 points earlier this year against Presbyterian.
Repella’s basketball background actually begins with her father Gary, a three-year letterman at Ohio State from 1972-74 under legendary Buckeye coach Fred Taylor. According to Liz, her dad was all shoot and very little D.
“They always say he didn’t play any defense and was all offense,” she giggled.
Having played major college basketball, her father knew enough about the game not to push it on his daughter. And any advice he gave her was always positive in nature.
“He always supported me,” Liz says. “Parents always try to live through their children and he never did that. It was always encouragement and giving me advice. I look up to him.”
Often when Liz was growing up the two would go out and shoot baskets together, sometimes playing horse.
“He always beat me in horse but he would never play me a game,” Repella said. “He’s too old for that. Plus, I think I can get him now.”
Repella had plenty of schools interested in her after scoring more than 1,800 career points at Steubenville (Ohio) High School. One scouting service listed her as the 63rd best player in the country. She had offers from Purdue, Iowa, Arizona, DePaul and Cincinnati, but surprisingly, her dad’s alma mater showed very little interest despite being just a two-hour’s drive from Steubenville.
“Ohio State never recruited me and my dad played there, too,” Repella said. “I didn’t want to go there any way. I’m home here.”
Repella knew as soon as she met Mike Carey and saw his intense courtside demeanor that West Virginia was the right program for her.
“It’s close to home and once I met Coach Carey I just wanted to play for him,” Repella said. “I loved his intensity and his personality off the court. What you do on-court he doesn’t carry it off the court. If you have a bad game, off the court he’s fine with you.”
At the same time, Repella had all of the right answers to the questions Carey asked her during her recruiting trip to Morgantown.
“When we talked to her about playing time she would say if these girls that were playing ahead of her were better than she was she was willing to wait for her time and she was willing to do what she needed to do to get better,” Carey said.
Repella understood, too, that playing Big East basketball was going to be a major step up from her high school days playing against 5-9 and 5-10 centers.
“I was always the tallest girl,” Repella said. “It was much different.”
“(Against Georgetown) I had a shot fake and I drove past that girl and I got my shot blocked by that 6-5 Georgetown girl. You can’t take it in there in the Big East like that,” Repella said. “Those are tall girls and you’ve got to learn when to pull up and when to take it in.”
Repella has been wise enough to study her veteran teammates, taking things from their games to incorporate in hers.
“I’m playing behind some great players,” Repella said. “Playing behind them I just use them as examples and I just try and go out and play as hard as they do.
“You always have to go hard – keep your intensity up and go hard,” Repella said. “You can’t worry too much about making mistakes and just go out and play.”
One player in particular Repella has studied closely is Bulger.
“She’s a great player,” Liz commented. “I like how she’s always cool and nothing gets to her. If she misses two shots she knows in her head that her third shot is going to go in. I don’t care if she misses five shots she believes the next one is going in. I like that mentality.”
Repella also liked the fact that West Virginia plays in one of the best women’s basketball conferences in the country. On Tuesday night the Mountaineers will get a chance to face No. 4-rated Rutgers at the WVU Coliseum after having already playing games against No. 1 Connecticut and No. 2 Tennessee.
“I always wanted to play against top-notch competition and coming here has allowed me to do that,” Repella said. “We’ve got a great team – we’re 12th in the nation – and we’re playing against these Top 10 teams.”
Carey believes it’s a matter of time before it all begins to click for Repella.
“Any weaknesses that she has she is the type of person that will continue to work on them and continue to get better,” Carey said. “I just think Liz Repella will continue to get better every year and she is going to have a great career here.”
As for Liz’s D, Carey admits that is probably the one major difference from her father.
“Liz can play defense,” Carey laughed. “That was what really impressed me about her in the beginning was her defense.”
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