A Freshman Foundation in OAC
By: Zach Baker, Associate Sports Editor
BEREA, OHIO -- Just about every player that makes the jump from high school to college basketball faces challenges.
Usually, they have time to face them.
It hasn't been that way for Capital's Lauren Geroski and Baldwin Wallace's Lexi Rohrbach. Both freshmen who graduated from area high schools, they have played major roles on their Ohio Athletic Conference teams, almost from the very beginning. It's to the point where both of their coaches - Capital's Dixie Jeffers and Baldwin Wallace's Cheri Harrer - each described their seasons as being "thrown" into a big spot.
In Geroski's case, her exposure to the college game came at the very beginning.
"We knew day one she'd be our starting point guard," Jeffers said. "She has filled a very difficult assignment, but she has a long way to go. She's just skimmed the surface."
Geroski, a St. Wendelin graduate, has started all but one of the Crusaders' games this year. She leads the team with 84 assists, and is averaging 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds a game.
"I really go into every game thinking, 'OK what's my job in this game,'" Geroski said. "My job is to get the team going. The point guard is the mini-coach. I just feel like my rebounding, assists and points are my job."
For Rohrbach, a Columbian graduate who played inside on a team that made it to regionals the past two seasons, her role has changed as the season went on. Harrer said Rohrbach has played more than expected after the injury to Baldwin Wallace post Nancy Coulter. Rohrbach has played in all 23 of the Yellow Jackets' games, all of them coming off the bench. But Rohrbach has averaged 17 minutes a game, playing a crucial role on a team fighting for an Ohio Athletic Conference title. She's averaging 5.7 rebounds and 6.4 points.
"She's done really well; she has a real knack around the basket for offensive rebounding," Harrer said. "Defensively she's come along."
Rohrbach said her role has surprised her.
"I just thought I was going to be the backup forward, and I'm playing a bigger role than I expected," she said. "The biggest challenge has been trying to play defense against people who are as big and strong as me."
Geroski said the biggest issue for her, as a point guard, has been adjusting to the speed of the college game.
Rohrbach has been a key defender
and rebounder for the Jackets
"Coming in from high school, basketball in high school and college is two different sports," she said. "The first two weeks, coach Jeffers pounded (that) into me.
"I think the most difficult adjustment was the speed of the game, the quickness of bringing the ball down," Geroski said. "That to me was the biggest difference."
Jeffers said she expects Geroski to make big improvements after this season.
"She's learned every time out," Jeffers said. "By no means does she have this point guard thing down to a science. She's a hard-nosed kid that knows the game of basketball.
"Her scoring ability will become more evident [next season]. To me she's one of the best freshman in the conference."
Geroski admitted to being somewhat frustrated by her scoring.
"I will definitely say my scoring is lower than what coach Jeffers expected of me and what I expected from myself," she said.
Rohrbach has been slowed by a shoulder injury, which Harrer said has affected her shooting ability.
"This year she's pretty much gotten her scoring through layups," Harrer said.
"I think there's always room for improvement," Rohrbach said.
The OAC regular season wraps up on Saturday. Capital and Baldwin Wallace are each locks for the eight-team conference tournament, which begins next week. The Yellow Jackets, which entered Wednesday night's game with league leader Mount Union with a 12-4 league mark, still have a chance at an outright league title and top seed. Mount enters at 13-3, with one game left after Wednesday.
With the high school season being shorter than the college one, Harrer was asked if she was worried about Rohrbach having a fatigue issue.
Harrer pointed out that Rohrbach is used to playing 25-26 games anyway due to Columbian advancing to regionals the last two years.
"Lexi might be a little different [than most freshmen]," Harrer said. "She just goes and plays.
Rohrbach is second in scoring and
first in rebounding of all BW freshmen.
"We just need her to be Lexi, be the best Lexi she can be right now."
Capital stood at 9-7 in the OAC going into its contest at Marietta Wednesday. Geroski sounded more than ready for the postseason.
"I'm extremely excited," she said. "Next week is, you live or die."
Geroski said the Crusaders have a way of remembering their losses. The last one came against BW Saturday, a 79-64 contest in Bexley. In that game, Geroski had two points, six assists and five rebounds.
Rohrbach had nine points and six boards for the Yellow Jackets. It's possible the teams will meet again in the tournament.
Geroski said Capital will be looking for payback against the squads that knocked the Crusaders off.
"Some of the teams, the loss [to them], the taste is in your mouth," Geroski said. "I want revenge on them."
As far as adjusting off the court, Rohrbach and Geroski each said their new teammates have been very helpful.
"I definitely enjoy playing under coach Harrer and her assistant coaches," Rohrbach said. "She makes the team like a family. The biggest thing I've learned is you have to get better every day, and you can't take a break."
Geroski said there have been times when she has been tired this season, but her teammates have picked her up.
"There will come a point in a season where your drained emotionally and mentally, but you look around, and you see all your teammates are in it with you," Geroski said. "This group of girls are amazing, they accepted me with open arms."
SIMILAR STYLES: Rohrbach was asked to compare playing for Harrer to playing for Columbian girls coach Larry Kisabeth.
"Both programs stress defense and working together as a team, and rebounding is another thing that is stressed," she said.
Incidentally, Kisabeth was an assistant on the Heidelberg men's 2007-2008 basketball team that won the OAC tournament. The head coach for the Student Princes then was Duane Sheldon, who is now Baldwin Wallace's men's coach.
YOU SAID IT, PART I: "It's not unusual for her to lead us in rebounds or assists most nights. She does things you aren't able to teach," Jeffers, on Geroski.
YOU SAID IT, PART II: "Those kids know how to compete and they have higher expectations than kids who don't come from a winning program," Harrer, on the advantage of recruiting a player from Columbian.
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