CARBONDALE — Abby Brockmeyer’s approach to basketball is straightforward — see the ball, get the ball, put it in the basket.
Time and again this season, Brockmeyer, a freshman forward at SIU, has kept a rebound alive, secured the ball, driven to the hoop and drawn a foul. It may not be aesthetically pleasing to all, but it’s effective.
Brockmeyer leads the Salukis with 7.3 rebounds per game. She is averaging 10.7 points per game while shooting 53.6 percent from the floor. Not bad for a kid who went to a high school too small to field a basketball team.
The 6-foot-1 freshman attended Lincolnwood High School. With just 120 students, Lincolnwood has a basketball co-op with Litchfield. The step up from Litchfield to Missouri Valley Conference play is considerable, but Brockmeyer has made the transition look easy.
“Yeah, I thought I would be a decent player, maybe get some playing time,” she said. “It’s kind of come to me naturally. I thought I’d be a little behind on my speed, which I am a little bit, but my strength seems to be there. I’m working on it. I’ll get better. I know by the time I’m a sophomore, junior or senior, I’ll be a lot better.
“There was a little doubt. I knew if I worked hard at it I would get it. It was more, if there was doubt I turned that into motivation to get better at what I do best.”
That’s not arrogance speaking, that’s reality. Brockmeyer might have attended a small high school, but she posted big numbers.
Her 872 career field goals rank 17th all-time in Illinois. Her 573 free throws rank 10th in Illinois, and her 1,510 rebounds are ninth best in state history.
Still, there is a world of difference between IHSA Class 2A hoops and Division I basketball.
“We watched her play with her high school,” said SIU coach Cindy Stein. “You could just tell she had just such a great presence on the floor. She was so good with her teammates. Some of them weren’t very good, and she was still good with them. That’s the kind of kid you want on your team.
“Obviously, we watched her in summer ball where she probably shined a little bigger. She really showed what she could do against really good talent as well. I think her greatest attribute is she is just so even-keel.”
So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
Brockmeyer has earned three Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Week Awards. The first week of January, she was named both the Newcomer of the Week and the Player of the Week. Only five players in MVC history have won both awards. No other SIU player has accomplished that.
The way Brockmeyer plays the game has undoubtedly eased the transition.
“I’m not really much of a fancy player,” she said. “I do kind of the dirty work, get those rebounds. A lot of my points are off offensive rebounds. I don’t make my own plays as much as other players. I do a lot of the dirty work. I think that’s helped me get to where I am. It’s not hard to change from high school to college; getting a rebound is getting a rebound. Getting position is getting position whether it’s a big girl or a tiny girl.”
“That’s the thing, we always talk about keeping it simple,” Stein said. “She’s just a real coachable kid. She tries to do what you want her to do. She sees some things on the floor. She’s come up with some moves that we’ve seen here and there. She can throw some in there. It’s like, ‘Where did you get that?’ It’s just not something, you usually have to teach them that stuff. She’s been well coached, you can tell that.”
Halfway through her freshman year, Brockmeyer said she has found a comfort zone on the floor. That contrasts with the first time she walked into the Arena to practice with the Salukis.
“Nerves, man,” she said. “I was super nervous. It was just a whole different atmosphere. You just don’t know what to expect. My high school coach, a very, very nice guy, very low key. So, coming in here, is she going to yell at me as soon as I make a mistake. What is going to happen? It turned out well.”
It turns out Brockmeyer also has an aptitude for understatement.