Athlete of the Week: Zoë Unruh
Senior Zoë Unruh faced a dilemma in the game against Emory University on Jan. 31. Down 13 points in the first half, the Bears faced their second loss in just as many University Athletic Association conference games. That’s when Unruh, a co-captain, caught fire, scoring 11 of a career-high 25 points in the 70-60 victory. Her actions have earned her Student Life’s Athlete of the Week award.
Student Life: What was going on when you had a career-high of 25 points?
Zoë Unruh: I can’t say if there’s a difference in mentality between one game and the next. There’s definitely a gain in confidence felt when making shots. Nothing felt different in my shot. Part of it was coming off a loss on Friday. Once we got down 13, I thought this could go one of two ways. This could be a repeat of Friday or we could do something about it.
SL: How has it changed your perspective now that you are a captain?
ZU: It definitely changes the mentality of just about everything. You have to be on top of yourself at all times. You almost always have to be an example in terms of just being present in practice, really being involved in everything, talking a lot. There’s not much room for error.
Games also, you definitely feel more responsible with a loss. You feel, if only I could have led my team through the difficulties in the game, things could be different. Part of that is being a senior. Knowing that it’s probably your last game at that certain arena. It’s a little sentimental.
SL: How do you feel leading the team in points?
ZU: The beauty of the team we have, and this is the same last year too, there’s such a balance in scoring. You can call me the leading scorer last year, but that was by 0.1 points. It wasn’t even worth the title. That’s what makes our team so dangerous. I’m really happy to be part of that balanced attack. What that also does is it takes away pressure. We’re not relying on one person to do it all for you. As great as it is for me to score 25 points in a game, not everyone’s relying on me. When I shoot a shot, I don’t feel that intense amount of pressure.
During a game, we know who’s on fire. Part of why I scored so much was because I got a lot of shots and that was all created by my teammates. I do the same thing if [Jaimie McFarlin]’s on fire. Same with Janice [Evans], Alex [Hoover], anyone…it really is having so many different points of attack. It really helps us know where to go and also frees up other things as well.
SL: How did you start playing basketball?
ZU: I was always a huge soccer player actually. I started playing soccer in kindergarten and wanted to be a professional soccer player. That’s what I was going to do. I knew it. I picked up basketball because of my height in sixth grade. I went to two summer camps one year: One was soccer, and one was basketball. I wound up getting an award in the basketball camp and not at the soccer camp. That kind of made me think maybe I should look at basketball.
My high school had soccer and basketball in the same season…The basketball coach talked to me before the season. It was a coach I never had contact with. That kind of also led me on that path as well. I just always wanted to play some sport at a higher level. I also ran cross country, and I pretty much hit a wall sophomore/junior year.
SL: Who were your basketball idols growing up?
ZU: I didn’t have any pro athlete I idolized. When I was into soccer, Mia Hamm was my idol. In terms of basketball, I shot a lot with my dad. He had this great sky hook. He couldn’t shoot normally. He could only shoot a hook shot. He would shoot a hook shot from the free-throw line and beyond. Part of the reason I continued to play was he could relate to the game. He could give me good teaching pointers and helped me solidify my game.
SL: What advice have you given to underclassmen?
ZU: As cheesy as it is, just enjoy the ride. That was on the back of my shooting shirt my freshman year. You don’t really think about that freshman year. One thing I wish I had known and I really hadn’t said this to anyone: The intensity of the games senior year, it should be like that every year. I don’t know how you would do this, but approach every game like it’s the championship game or it could be your last game. That’s how you should approach every game. I wish I had captured that intensity and feeling every game.