Effingham Daily News
Josie Zerrusen used to be a handful for her Effingham coaches, but turned into a headache for opponents by the end her senior season.
Zerrusen, the only one of four Hearts seniors to reach 1,000 points in her career this season, was preoccupied with scoring points as a sophomore on a 20-10 team in 2012.
But the Hearts improved as Zerrusen matured, recording 54 wins in the last two seasons, including a school-record 28 this season and a regional championship. Zerrusen grew up by changing her attitude and refusing to take summers off.
“My attitude toward my teammates (has changed),” Zerrusen said. “I was more obsessed about scoring than winning. This year and last year, I’d rather have two points and win.”
She exemplified that in earning the Charleston Holiday Tournament most valuable player award last season, despite scoring two points in the championship game.
Effingham head coach Jeff Schafer said she did “all of the other things” that help a team win, but three years ago she wanted the success without earning it the same way.
Zerrusen reached the varsity level as a sophomore, but approached the team with a “stubborn” attitude, Schafer said.
“She just wanted that success to come easy,” Schafer said. “When you step up and play varsity all of a sudden, it’s not as easy sometimes. She really wanted to win so bad the she couldn’t handle when you got beat. Sometimes the other team is just better.”
Zerrusen still doesn’t like to lose; in fact, “I absolutely hate losing,” she said. But Schafer said she’s a different, selfless player now.
Schafer said he’d pay admission to watch her play basketball now because of the player she turned into.
She became the Hearts’ go-to player at the tail end of this season, beginning with the Teutopolis game. The Shoes handed the Hearts their first loss of the season, but Zerrusen showed a sense of urgency.
“We had such a poor first half and you can’t hardly do much about it,” Schafer said. “She put us on her back in the second half and from then on she was our go-to player, all the time.”
When she eclipsed 1,000 career points on Feb. 13, in a game against Olney, Effingham stopped the game to recognize her — whereas a sophomore Zerrusen may have celebrated herself, in the moment.
“It was surreal,” Zerrusen said. “We still had the game to finish. When they stopped the game, it felt great.”
Zerrusen said she wants to be remembered for the teams she was apart of and how much they loved the game, rather than the simple fact that they set the program’s wins record.
Her defensive versatility and hustle sets Zerrusen apart from the rest, Schafer said. She was a delight.
“She can in, this player to our school, and leaves as one who was an absolute pleasure to go out on the basketball court with ever night,” Schafer said. “She worked so hard at it, too.”
Alex McNamee can be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org.