When an athlete makes the jump from high school to college athletics the expectations usually aren't too high as they try to adapt to a higher level of play.
Instead, college coaches will expect a leading scorer or top player to emerge from their veteran athletes.
The Central Lakes College Raiders women's basketball team has dispelled that theory as 5-foot-11 freshman forward Val Diedrich has risen to the top to lead the team in most offensive categories.
Diedrich, who attended Hinckley-Finlayson High School, is the leading scorer for the Raiders and the fifth-leading scorer in the Minnesota Community College Conference North Division, averaging 16.8 points. She also averages 8 rebounds a game and shoots 70 percent from the free-throw line for the 1-5 Raiders.
Raiders coach Dennis Eastman said Diedrich has been everything he expected and more.
"Val has adjusted to the college game very well," Eastman said. "She's averaging around 38 minutes a game, which is unusually high, so I'm using her a lot more than anyone else. She's a dominant player."
Diedrich has led the Raiders in scoring in five of their six games, having her best night last Friday against Anoka-Ramsey, scoring 22 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. Although she has been the Raiders' go-to player, she attributes much of her success to the play of teammates.
"My teammates do a really good job of finding me in the openings," said Diedrich. "A lot of my baskets come right under the net. I owe a lot of my success to them."
One area where Diedrich excels on her own is the knowledge of the game that she brings to the court each night. Eastman said it is obvious to him that someone has taught her the finer points of the game.
"She's a very intelligent basketball player," Eastman said. "You can see she's been around the game a very long time. What I'm trying to use her for is her knowledge."
Coming into the season, Diedrich wasn't quite sure what to expect, going from high school to college basketball. After playing a guard position in high school, Diedrich had to learn a new position, the post. She's also had to adapt to playing against better athletes.
"I've never played a post position before," Diedrich said. "I've had to learn a lot about post moves and rebounding as well playing against better all-around players. I just try to be all over the court and play aggressive."
Eastman usually gives sophomores the responsibility of leading the team but with only three sophomores on the roster this year, Diedrich has slowly emerged as that leader, albeit a quiet one.
"She's the right type of kid we need for this team," Eastman said. "She doesn't bite your head off if you do something wrong but she'll pat you on the back when you do something right.
"It's a lot of pressure to put on a freshman but I expect as the year goes on, she'll take on even more of a leadership role."
Besides being one of the top basketball players in the MCCC, Diedrich is also one of the best volleyball players. She helped CLC to its second consecutive national championship in November and was named to the national all-tournament team. With the experience in volleyball, Diedrich has seen what it takes to win.
"I want to do as good in basketball as we did in volleyball," said Diedrich. "A national championship might not happen right away but we want to get on a winning streak."
As far as her future is concerned, Diedrich will return to CLC next year to compete in both volleyball and basketball, taking a firm hold on an awaiting leadership role that she will have already mastered.
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