Emily Myers was looking for the right college environment as a student, hopefully someplace where she could continue to play the game she loves.
As a National Honor Society member who graduated from Heritage High School with a 3.9 cumulative grade point average, academics were the driving factor in her search.
She found that at the University of La Verne, an NCAA Division III school in Southern California, was the perfect fit.
“I always wanted to go and play basketball in college, but I didn’t know if I really wanted to pursue it,” Myers said. “I had the love for it, but I didn’t know if I could find a school that offered something I’d be interested in and basketball. I didn’t really want to go D-I or D-II because I knew that I wanted to focus on academics, and that’s part of the reason why I came to this school.”
Then came a little reverse recruiting, which she said worked out as “kind of a crazy luck of the draw.”
With her eye on La Verne, Myers reached out to the Leopards’ head coach at the time and provided game film. She visited and “fell in love” with the Los Angeles-area campus and enjoyed her prospective teammates, she said, “and everything just kind of flowed after that.”
During her pursuit of the degree in communications she plans to complete with commencement in May, Myers became a two-time Second Team All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference selection for the Leopards and now a team co-captain.
Growing her game
By her own admission generously listed as 6-foot on the roster, the senior center is averaging 12.9 points and 8.9 rebounds.
Myers has played in every game of her four seasons at La Verne, with the exception of missing one with strep throat as a junior. As a freshman, she averaged 11.6 minutes a game and started eight games. She has been a starter essentially ever since, coming off the bench twice as a sophomore, and averaging about 30 minutes a game for the past three seasons.
Her scoring average jumped from 3.6 as a freshman to 12.4 and 14.1 the next two seasons, and her rebounding from 3.3 to 7.0 and 8.3, respectively.
“My freshman year, I kind of knew going in it’s typical for freshmen not to get a lot of playing time, but just the team that we had pushed me to push myself in practice,” Myers said.
“I always wasn’t really an offensive player. I really enjoyed rebounding and defense. I developed more as an offensive player as the years went on, but I’ve always had pride in my defense and wanting to win and if I score, I score. I didn’t really see myself as an offensive threat, then that kind of developed over the years.”
Developing into a scoring threat has seen her shooting percentage surge from 45.8 as a freshman to 58.5 as a sophomore, 69.7 as a junior and 72.2 as a senior through the weekend’s games and 68.3 now for the season after a tough shooting night in a 64-61 loss Tuesday at Occidental.
Primarily a classic low post player, another development in Myers’ game is exploiting the fact that she is frequently at a height disadvantage by expanding her effectiveness in the high post.
“I’m comfortable mostly back to the basket, but I’ve developed more of a high post game, especially last year and into this year,” Myers said. “We don’t have a lot of height on our team and I’m one of the tallest players, so they need me in that position to play against the other teams’ height. But if I feel like I can be faster than the other team’s height, then I’m going to try to utilize the high post game.”
La Verne was much more of a “run and gun” team during Myers’ freshman season under the previous coach, she said. The Leopards are now more patient, while still looking to push the tempo when getting those opportunities. They play mostly straight up defensively, sometimes out of a zone press.
Leading the Leopards
Myers recorded her sixth double-double of the season Tuesday at Occidental with 12 points and a career-high 19 rebounds — her 16 defensive rebounds alone were more than her previous career best single-game total of 15 — and has also twice been a rebound shy of a double-double. The loss snapped a two-game winning streak and dropped the Leopards to 3-13, 2-6 SCIAC, in what has been a challenging season following the loss of five seniors. This year’s team has only three seniors and two juniors.
“I just want to win,” Myers said Monday of her own statistical achievements. “If the double-doubles come, they come. I pride myself on working hard because I want to be there for my team.”
She takes the same approach to all-conference honors.
“It motivates me, but I’m the kind of player that I would rather our team go to the playoffs or make the SCIAC championships than me get recognition,” Myers said. “At the same time, it does motivate me, because what player isn’t competitive and wants to be the best?”
The top four teams in the regular season play in the conference championship tournament, with the winner advancing to the NCAA-III playoffs.
While the Leopards have their work cut out for them to move into position for postseason play, Myers said that as a senior and co-captain, “I just want it to move in a positive direction that it’s moving toward, even though we’re not having the greatest of seasons. I’m just trying to be there as a leader.”