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Hegedus’ Impact Being Felt for Clarion University Women’s Basketball Team Beyond the Box Score


CLARION, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Emily Hegedus wants to make an impact on the basketball court. Any player worth her weight in hightops would.

But there’s more that Hegedus wants to accomplish, things that go beyond how many points she scores, assists she hands out or rebounds she pulls down for the Clarion University women’s basketball team.

Stuff that doesn’t show up in the box score.

For Hegedus, things are sharper focus now as she begins her final season as a player. Hegedus has been a gym rat since she could walk, playing AAU and excelling on her high school team at Karns City.

Her father, Mike, is a basketball coach. Her older sister, Annie, was a standout point guard in her own right. Basketball has been just as big a part of her life as breathing, eating and sleeping.

But as times change, so do perspectives.

“The biggest impact I want to make is to be the most positive leader I can be,” Hegedus said. “The biggest thing this year is I want to be the best captain I can be.”

In high school, few made a bigger impact for her team that Hegedus.

The 5-foot-9 guard scored 1,735 career points for Karns City. During her senior year, she was virtually unstoppable, averaging 25.7 points, 12.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

It’s been a much tougher road for her at Clarion.

Her college career began with Tippin Gymnasium under renovation. The team had to use on the on-campus recreation center to play home games and to practice, sharing it with the student body. Sometimes, the team would have only half a court to use.

The locker room was a women’s public restroom.

“We were sitting on sinks, getting dressed for games in stalls,” Hegedus said. “We were just trying to make it as normal as possible.”

Hegedus’ sophomore season was mostly typical. She averaged 8.9 points and five rebounds per game for the Golden Eagles.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Last year, COVID claimed whatever normalcy she had left.

“My junior year was all COVID, all the time,” she said. “We had half a season, half the games. Our parents couldn’t come to away games, which was heartbreaking. For home games, they had to get tested, wear a mask or sit at the top. There were so many limitations. That really changed everything last year.”

Even though Hegedus and Clarion played games, they didn’t count.

That has Hegedus longing for a normal year in 2021-22.

But even this year isn’t so normal for her.

Hegedus is student teaching at Keystone High School for half the day. She also has five classes at Clarion University to attend throughout the week.

Oh, and basketball, too.

“My life outside of basketball is very, very hectic,” Hegedus said.

But it’s on the basketball court where she finds her sanctuary.

There, she can do the thing she has done all her life. There, she can turn off all those outside stresses and focus on something she truly loves.

Basketball.

It’s an escape. A pleasant diversion.

Clarion women’s basketball coach Jana Ashley is well aware of the demands on Hegedus. Ashley, who is in her eighth season with the Golden Knights, delivered an import message to Hegedus before the season.

“She told me, ‘I know you have a lot going on, but try your hardest to just erase that for the time you’re on the court,’” Hegedus said. “That’s what I’ve tried to do.”

Hegedus has become one part guard and one part extension of the coaching staff.

This Clarion team is extremely young with five freshman and four sophomores on the roster. Hegedus is the only senior. Neely Whitehead, a graduate student, is also on the team.

She’s well aware that her time is fleeting. That soon, she’ll put the uniform on for the last time.

“Don’t make me cry,” Hegedus said, chuckling. “It hit me that this is my last year that I’m a senior. It really hit me that I’ll never play again, and that’s what’s really sad. I have played since the fourth grade and now I’m 22, about to be 23 in March. I’m almost done and that’s just heartbreaking.

“But, I mean, that’s not going to be the end to my basketball journey. I’m definitely going to coach in my future. I’ll be able to live through my players.”

In a way, Hegedus is already doing that.

She’s a sympathetic ear to the younger players. She’s a big sister and quasi-coach, encouraging and instructing at the same time.

After a intra-squad scrimmage, Hegedus could tell one of the younger players was down on herself. Hegedus sent her a text saying she looked good in the scrimmage.

“She replied and she was so happy,” Hegedus said. “That’s something I’m going to miss, just bringing that positivity and encouragement.”

Hegedus will have one year of eligibility remaining after this season because of COVID-19. She toyed with using it, but instead decided to move on with her life.

It was by no means and easy decision to leave a year on the table.

“Basketball is my life and I weighted my options,” Hegedus said. “I wrote everything down. I was thinking how awesome it would be to get an opportunity to play one more year and not be done.

“But there’s an end to everything,” she added. “I just need to accept the fact that this is the end of this chapter and a new chapter is beginning.”



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