The recruiting process for Prairie senior basketball player Claire Heitschmidt was far different than she expected.
“There were a lot of calls, emailing, text messages with coaches,” Heitschmidt said. “A lot of contacting through Zoom and all of that.”
Normally, during summer club tournaments, there would be college coaches lined up to chat with players. This summer there were none.
Heitschmidt, playing with ABA Elite Basketball of Vancouver, played in summer tournaments in Indiana and Colorado. Attendance was limited. The games were live-streamed on the internet, allowing college coaches to watch players.
Through all that, it only took one phone call with coach Randi Richardson-Thornely to convince Heitschmidt that Central Washington was the place for her.
And it wasn’t anything the coach said. It’s what they didn’t talk about.
“Claire got off the phone and said ‘She didn’t ask me one thing about basketball,’ ” said her mother, Bobbi Heitschmidt. “It was all about academics, her career goals, what she wanted to do.”
Claire Heitschmidt added: “I loved the school. I loved the coaches. Randi is such an amazing person, and I just clicked with her right away.”
It also helped that Heitschmidt was part of a recent recruiting class that included former Prairie teammate Cassidy Gardner, who decided last spring to transfer to Central from Portland State.
“I’ve known Cassidy forever,” Heitschmidt said. “I loved playing with her. Getting to play with her again (at Central) definitely helped.”
With ABA, Heitschmidt played under Steve Gardner, Cassidy’s father, along with Union’s Lolo Weatherspoon and Washougal’s Skylar Bea, Jaiden Bea and Savea Mansfield.
“The summer is a big part of my game because that’s when I get better a lot,” Heitschmidt said. “Just to be able to play, mentally to get back in there, was just the best feeling ever.”
But it was also a different summer because of COVID-19 restrictions.
“You couldn’t sit and watch other people’s games,” Heitschmidt said. “You had to get in, play and then get out. You could only be in the gym 15 minutes before your game, which is kind of hard because I like to watch other people play.”
Returning to Prairie for her senior year has also been different, but Heitschmidt doesn’t mind the online learning model.
“So last year, I actually took two online classes (before the pandemic) so it wasn’t a huge adjustment for me,” she said. “I love online school because it allows me to get my workouts in during the morning, and that’s very nice.”
This fall, Heitschmidt had been working out with a trainer three days a week, a weightlifting coach three days a week and she also has practices on the weekend with ABA. The club team is slated to play a handful of tournaments in Arizona in October, November and December.
“And I also shoot with my dad every night, so I’ve been keeping pretty busy,” she added.
Starting next Monday, Heitschmidt can add workouts with some of her Prairie High teammates to her schedule as the Falcons begin to take steps towards a high school season sometime after the first of the year.
“I’ve been looking forward to that,” she said. “It was kind of frustrating because Prairie was (in) one of the last districts to offer that. I know Camas started workouts a week ago, and other districts, like Evergreen, have been doing it for a while.
“But I’m just glad we get to start.”