Little things lead to big Toledo career for Mikonowicz


TOLEDO — Entering her senior year at Rossford, the University of Toledo’s Sammi Mikonowicz was not on the radar of NCAA Division I basketball programs.

The 5-foot-10 sophomore guard can thank former Eastwood player Jamie Schmeltz, now playing at Walsh University, for getting noticed.

“Crazy story — when we played Eastwood in the first game in the new gym, Miami University (Ohio) was at the game to watch Jamie Schmeltz,” Rossford coach Toby Ledesma recalls.

“That was the first time a big Division I school saw her, and then Toledo was at a game right after that, and it took off from there.”

At the Stroh Center last week, Mikonowicz nearly had her second straight double-double with 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists as the Rockets defeated the Bowling Green State University women, 71-67. Out of a 40-minute game, she played all but four minutes and eight seconds.

While at Rossford, Toledo coach Tricia Cullop saw something in Mikonowicz that few others saw.

“Back when we looked at Sammi initially, I didn’t have a scholarship for her, but I went to watch one of her tournament games and she did everything,” Cullop said.

“She had 30 points, like 15 rebounds, she took charges, she was bringing the ball up the floor, passing it and posting up. She was doing everything.

“I just love the fact that even when she got the heck knocked out of her, she got back up and did everything she could for her team. She never complains. She’s a joy to coach,” Cullop continued.

Mikonowicz is a big reason Toledo leads the Mid-American Conference at 15-4 overall and 9-1 in the league. She has started in all 19 games, averaging 6.5 points and 6.6 rebounds.

“I’m just trying to do the little things. I’m not going to be like ‘Q’ (junior guard Quinesha Lockett) or ‘Soph’ (junior guard Sophia Wiard) out there, dropping 20 a game,” Mikonowicz said.

“But if I can do the little things like rebounding and making an assist here or there, playing good D, those are the things that are going to help us win the game, as well as scoring, so all those little things combined.”

Cullop said Mikonowicz earned her job as a starter long ago, and she does put up big numbers from time to time, scoring 20 against Akron in February last year. As a freshman, she started all 24 games, averaging 9.2 points and six rebounds.

“She just outworks people. I mean, she’s skilled, she can switch defensively, which makes it a little bit easier for us to guard actions,” Cullop said.

“She guards a lot of guards many nights because of our switching actions. But her ability to knock down a three, drive to the hole, take care of the basketball — I just have a lot of trust in her because she is so skilled.”

In Toledo’s only MAC loss, 79-72 to Ohio at Savage Arena, Mikonowicz tied a single-game school record with 22 rebounds.

Mikonowicz and Liz Meiring now share the program’s single game rebound record, with the latter achieving that feat against Kent State on Jan. 8, 1985. The Rossford native is one of nine players in the nation this season with at least 22 rebounds in a game.

“You saw in the last game she had 22 rebounds,” Cullop said. “At the half, I said, ‘Do you even realize how many rebounds you have right now?’

“It’s phenomenal. She tied a school record that had been held since 1985. I just love her will, her competitiveness. That kid has got ‘it’ and not every kid does.”

Mikonowicz says the Rockets are on a mission to win the MAC and qualify for the NCAA tournament.

Mikonowicz said that she has come a long way from displaying her raw talent at Rossford to becoming a refined player at Toledo.

It took more than improving basketball skills to refine her game — she had to work on her strength, too.

“We lift every week so we’re getting the strength there, and I think just playing against the competition, I’ve gotten used to it, and you get stronger playing against them,” Mikonowicz said.

At Rossford, Mikonowicz wrapped up prep career with school-record 1,480 points and 677 rebounds. As a senior, she averaged a Northern Buckeye Conference-high 24.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.6 blocks and four steals per game

Rossford coach Toby Ledesma could see Mikonowicz had the talent to play at the next level when she was in high school.

“You just knew that once she got into a program like Toledo that they were going to take her athleticism and all of her skill and make her even better,” Ledesma continued.

Ledesma recalls how he got involved when, late in her senior year, Mikonowicz was suddenly getting recruited by bigger schools.

“Toward the end, once they started coming, it was the typical thing like sending them film, giving them a little bit of evaluation to Toledo,” Ledesma said.

“It was just anything that they asked, just trying to get them some fair feedback. Tricia came and the first time I talked to her was our sectional game against Genoa. We chatted a little bit there and everything happened really fast because it happened so late.”

Ledesma, director of the Rossford Recreation Center, says he uses every opportunity see her play.

“We got to go to her Central Michigan game. Probably over 120 Rossford people went to that game. Our fifth and sixth grade girls played at halftime, our youth kids did a tour of the facilities,” Ledesma said.

“My coaches and I try to make it to a few games, but we also try to take everybody in the program to at least one game. We want to support her as much as we can whenever we can.

“As good as a player as she is, she is an even better person. She was a valedictorian of her class, was a part of a number of organizations and always comes back and helps the little kids, and still does, at the rec center.

“I could not have asked for a better representative of our program, for sure.”

No posts to display