ROSSFORD — During University of Toledo womens basketball games, there is typically a healthy contingent of Rossford fans at Savage Arena cheering on 5-foot-10 starting junior guard Sammi Mikonowicz.
Mikonowicz, a Rossford High School alum, helped lead Toledo to a 29-5 season, a second straight Mid-American Conference title and an 80-73 win over Iowa State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament during the 2022-23 season.
Mikonowicz, along with fifth-year senior Sophia Wiard, was awarded Toledo’s “Whatever It Takes Award”, given to the player who does everything in their power to make the team better.
Mikonowicz started all 34 games and ranked second on the team in minutes played, averaging 33.2 minutes per game.
The Rossford native averaged 10.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, the latter of which ranked fourth in the MAC. She tallied five double-doubles on the year and had nine games with double-digit rebounds.
Mikonowicz was named to the MAC All-Tournament Team, averaging 10.7 points and 10.7 rebounds in three tournament games, leading the Rockets to a championship.
Getting back to Stalma Court
Now she is giving back to her native community. Mikonowicz returned to Rossford’s Joe Stalma Court at George Wolfe Field House to host her first ever youth camp Monday through Thursday, June 5-8.
City of Rossford Recreation Director and Rossford girls basketball coach Toby Ledesma says 65 youth signed up for the camp, which was open to any boy or girl, from any school, entering first through sixth grade.
Mikonowicz finished her high school career as a four-year letterwinner in basketball and salutatorian of her class with a 4.1 GPA.
Her senior season was capped off with a single season record 42 points in the first game played in Rossford’s new fieldhouse.
Mikonowicz led Rossford to its first-ever regional tournament in girls basketball, earning District Player of the Year honors along the way. She holds school records for most career points, rebounds and steals.
Mikonowicz says the original invitation to host the camp came from Ledesma, her high school coach.
“Toby actually reached out to me,” Mikonowicz said. “We were talking last year about it, and he asked me if I wanted to do one and honestly, with all the NIL (NCAA name, image, and likeness rules) stuff, I said, ‘Well, I don’t know how all this works.’
“So then, after another year getting it under my belt, we had a better idea, and I knew a little bit more what I had to do. He just reached out and it sounded like a good idea,” Mikonowicz continued.
Ledesma said, “We wanted to try and find a way to inspire younger kids to come out and try the game of basketball.
“There has been a push in our athletic department to try to offer more youth camps throughout the summer. So, we were just able to put the two together.
“We thought now was the best time, especially with the push, and I reached out to Sammi, who is a draw (for youth). I knew that in the past with us working with her at the rec center, how good she was working with kids and how much she enjoyed giving back to the community, so I thought it was a perfect fit.
“She had to get some approvals through UT, but they’ve already been working through this stuff for a while, so it was pretty effortless.
“I gave her a day, she contacted the people she needed to, she got back with an answer and all the specifics, which was not much, and we were able to get a flier together and ready to go.”
Coaching on her radar
Mikonowicz, an Education major at UT, said the four-day event turned out to be “a lot of fun.” Even though she will be a senior at UT, she has two years eligibility remaining because of the COVID pandemic, and then she wants to coach someday.
“That is the plan. I think just staying involved with the sport,” Mikonowicz said. “Obviously, I can’t play my whole life, but if I can turn it around and start coaching, that would keep me around the sport, keep me active in the sport I love.
“I think just being involved in those sports and having all those people help me, and I’m kind of turning it around now and becoming the type of person who can help others.
“I’m really excited to do that and it’s a lot of fun and a way to keep me in the sports. Ultimately, I wish I could play my whole life, I would, but society won’t hold up for that.”
It would not be a surprise if Mikonowicz was playing in the WNBA someday before getting a chance to coach because she already surprised a lot of people who never expected her to become the NCAA Division I superstar she has.
“Sammi is a perfect role model, you know,” Ledesma said. “She has a good message behind it with how hard she worked to get to where she is and she was sometimes overlooked, but perseverance lasted.
“So, I think to the youth, she is kind of a hero — they see a kid who is going to the same school that they went to on TV or on ESPN now, it is cool. She is a role model to those kids, and we were able to put them all together.”
Mikonowicz recalls how others in the community provided the leadership and coaching she needed to become the player she is today.
“I don’t remember a lot of playing when I was young, but I’ve been in Rossford my whole life,” Mikonowicz said.
“I played at All Saints (Catholic School in Rossford), so I was always in the area, and then prior to my freshman year I went to a few of the open gyms that they had, and that is kind of how I got into it.
“The rec center always had those programs and my parents always put me in them. I know that I’ve always been involved in some type of athletics events at a young age.”
If you missed the camp, or your child did not get the opportunity to participate, Ledesma says there will be more.
“This is something that we hope is only going to continue to grow,” Ledesma said. “This is our first one and hopefully not our last, so if anybody else is interested, keep a lookout for next year’s or even another session later this summer since we had some success with it.”