Johnson wasn't the only coach that came calling. Niemerg said she heard from plenty of other junior colleges like Parkland and Olney, but was also recruited by four-year institutions Illinois Wesleyan and Millikin. In the end, Niemerg said Lake Land just felt right.
"I know it's a good school and I know that they're a pretty successful team," she said. "It's close to home, and that's good because I didn't really want to move far away. Overall, it just seemed like a really good fit."
Less than an hour due north on state Route 45, the Lake Land campus figures to have plenty of Dieterich faithfuls packing the gym on game nights.
"I'm excited about that," Niemerg said. "I think it will be good to have fans from my high school years be able to come and see me play, that will make it fun, too."
Lady Maroons head coach Donetta Ohnesorge agreed, saying Lake Land offered Niemerg a chance to continue playing in front of friends and family.
"I think she's going to get a lot of support from our community," Ohnesorge said. "I think this is what suited her best right now."
Ohnesorge knows Lake Land is getting a good one in Niemerg, and said her star center definitely left her mark on the Dieterich program. This past season, Niemerg led Dieterich to its first-ever regional title with a 42-26 victory over St. Anthony on Feb. 7, cementing her role in Lady Maroon history.
"Candace was a jewel," she said. "She started as a freshman and she's left a lot of memories; it's going to be something that people will always remember."
Niemerg said that it will be different leaving the close, comforting confines of Dieterich High School, but that she's more than ready for the challenges ahead at Lake Land.
"It's going to be hard, I put in so much time playing here (at Dieterich)," she said. "It's going to be a whole new group of girls. It's going to be a big change, but I'm ready for a big change."
Johnson is ready for that change, too.
Braden Layer can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.