The decision was one that UConn-bound Class of 2014 recruit Courtney Ekmark spent a great deal of time contemplating. In the end, spending her senior year at home instead of at St. Mary’s High School in Phoenix was the best move for her.
Ekmark, a 6-foot guard who orally committed to UConn in May of 2012, will be home-schooled for the second time as she completes the necessary requirements to earn her high school diploma. She said needs only a Math and an English class to complete those requirements and will take them on-line.
“I think it’s just a smart move,’’ Ekmark said. “I think that’ll be a great opportunity to do some things that I didn’t really have time to do when I was playing in high school. So I’m really excited to spend some time with my family and play basketball. I’m going to be able to go to all of my brother (Andrew’s) games and I’m going to be able to take family trips. I know it’s kind of our last year together as a family so we’ll take some cool trips.
“I’ve actually been home-schooled before. I was home-schooled in sixth, seventh and eighth grade and that was really great for me. I loved it. And that also helped me get ready for high school. So hopefully I’ll just have the time to prepare to win national championships at UConn.’’
Ekmark, who earned a 4.3 GPA while at St. Mary’s, had given some thought about arriving at UConn this fall “because I can’t wait to get there.’’ But her mother, Meg, wanted her to stay home more year before heading to Storrs.
“I know once I go to UConn I’m not going to, obviously, have as much time with the family,’’ Ekmark said. “But I’m definitely going to relish this last year with them.’’
Not only did Ekmark set herself up well to graduate during her three years at St. Mary’s, she has earned credits that will carry over at UConn by passing Advanced Placement tests in U.S. History and Government and by taking dual enrollment classes in Math and Biology 201: Anatomy and Physiology. She said she has already earned almost a full semester of credits toward her studies at UConn.
Ekmark said that UConn coach Geno Auriemma “was fine’’ with her decision to leave St. Mary’s. She is currently playing with the Cal Swish AAU team at the USJN/Nike 17U National Championship in Washington, D.C. today through Wednesday and will compete at the Nike Nationals in Augusta, Ga. July 27-30.
Ekmark was named the 2013 Gatorade Arizona Player of the Year, averaging 19.6 points, five rebounds and four steals in leading St. Mary’s to a 29-1 record and its third straight Division I state championship last season. She was a combined 87-3 during her high school career.
Although Ekmark will not be playing at the high school level next season, she will pursue other opportunities to improve her game.
“I’ll be playing a lot,’’ Ekmark said. “I’m going to get in a boy’s league and I’m going to train with some different people. So it’ll be good. Playing against boys will help. I’m going into UConn with … I don’t know of anyone else in my class who has more games under their belt than I have. I’ve been playing AAU basketball, playing in the college viewing tournaments, since I was in eighth grade. Our teams always go and play the most in all the tournaments and always make it to the championship. So, yeah, I have a lot of games under my belt. But playing against the boys will be good also.’’
Ekmark will likely make her official visit to UConn during First Night Festivities in mid-October. Being home-schooled will also allow her to attend more games this season.
And seeing the Huskies win their NCAA record-tying eighth national championship in New Orleans in April certainly made a significant impression on Ekmark.
“It was extremely exciting and motivating to watch them win,’’ Ekmark said. “That’s the standard there so you better be ready to win. I just can’t wait.’’