Effingham Daily News
Sam Zerrusen has basketball in her blood. Grandfather Lawrence Carie coached the Teutopolis boys basketball team for more than 20 years. Mother Doris (Carie) Zerrusen was the first Illinois Ms. Basketball, leading T-Town to the first of many state titles and went on to star at Illinois.
So it’s only fitting that Sam — a recent Effingham High School graduate, who played and excelled at three sports in addition to being an academic all-star — chose to continue her career on the basketball court at a place that has a nice hoops tradition of its own. She’ll play basketball at Millikin University in Decatur, a place with both a great women’s basketball history and a great academic reputation.
It’s the best of both worlds, and Zerrusen couldn’t be more excited.
“I love the feeling,” she said. “I guess just the thought of knowing I get to play another four years and do something I love makes me feel great about myself.
“It’s a very strong program, and I’m really excited about playing for them.”
Millikin has thrived under head coach Lori Kerans. In addition to winning the 2005 NCAA Division III National Championship, the Big Blue has made 14 NCAA tournament appearances. Kerans has a record of 481-176 and 13 20-win seasons in her 25 years as the coach of the Big Blue.
She thinks Zerrusen has the perfect tools to help continue Millikin’s basketball tradition.
“Her Carie/Zerrusen genes give her an advantage in being a great person, student and athlete,” Kerans said. “But it is her passion, her work ethic and her dedication that have made Sam the kind of person we want wearing the blue next year.
“As a basketball player, Sam has the ability to play any position on the court and is often responsible for guarding the opponent’s best athlete. Sam has proven herself within the tough Apollo Conference. Her dominance in our program will depend only on her ability to listen, be taught and work.”
A Newton native, Kerans knows the Apollo Conference well. She’s also been very active recruiter in the Apollo Conference and surrounding area of East Central Illinois.
Zerrusen, Altamont’s Ashley Fulk and Flora’s Hannah Golden will join a roster full of other area natives. T-Town grad Heather Pruemer, who will be a senior at Millikin, Newton grad Nikki Tipsword, a rising junior, and Beecher City grad Hillary Shelton, a rising sophomore, have all made their marks for the Big Blue.
“Lori Kerans is from Newton, so my family knows her and her father,” Zerrusen said. “Also, Hannah Golden and Ashley Fulk will be playing at Millikin with me. It will be a smoother transition (having familiar faces as teammates).”
A three-year varsity letterwinner as a guard at EHS, Zerrusen averaged more than 10 points per game during both her junior and senior seasons. She was a three-point specialist for the Hearts, shooting 38 percent from downtown and 45 percent total in her senior season. Her 10.6 points-per-game helped bring the Hearts their second-straight regional title this past season.
“I’ve talked to Coach Kerans about it, and I’m going to play on the wing,” Zerrusen said of her presumed role for the Big Blue. “She sees me as a person controlling the team and being a shooting guard so we have somebody that can score.
“She sees me, and I see myself, as a leader.”
Although Zerrusen will most likely spend her time on the wing, EHS head coach Jeff Schafer thinks Zerrusen’s versatility makes her valuable.
“She’s a real versatile player who can play any position that they need her to,” Schafer said. “I know it’s always nice to have those kids who can play in a lot of different spots.”
Zerrusen was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches’ Association Class 3A/4A Special Mention team, the Apollo Conference All-Conference First Team and was also an all-area player on the EDN and Decatur Herald & Review teams.
Despite her leadership skills, Zerrusen knows her game is not complete. She knows that quickness and ballhandling are two major aspects that she’ll have to develop to be great at Millikin.
“I’ve been working out and doing that between working two jobs,” she said of her workout regimen in preparation for next season. “(I’ve been) going to Decatur once a week for a scrimmage. The captains of the team set it up. The first one (was June 2) and then we’ll decide what days work best for scrimmages and summer workouts. We’ll be ready to go by the season.”
“She’s got a great opportunity there to get a good education and to play for a very good basketball program,” Schafer said. “I still fell like she can keep getting better and continue to improve and flourish in that program.
“If she gets really focused I think she can have a really good career.”
Sam, the daughter of Anthony and Doris Zerrusen, plans to major in communications at Millikin.
“Millikin has the education I need and it’s a four-year college,” she said. “I didn’t want to have to go through a two-year college and then a four-year college.
“I’m looking forward to getting away for a while and meeting new people. Campus life, I’m kind of anxious to see what it’s like.”