IPFW women's basketball coach Chris Paul does not pretend to know exactly why season ticket sales for next season are up, but he has a pretty good idea.
“My gut tells me we are going to have a lot of Fort Wayne and Angola people coming out to watch us play,” Paul said.
That educated guess is due to incoming freshmen Arianna Simmons and Rachel Rinehart of South Side High School and Angola High School, respectively.
You can add a third local player to the equation in Leo graduate Keanna Gary, who recently decided to transfer home from Akron after attending the university through the summer. She will have to sit out the 2013-14 season but will be eligible the following campaign and gives Paul a trio of local products in the freshman class.
As a senior at Leo during the 2012-13 season, Gary averaged 14.9 points and 12.0 rebounds and was a first-team All-ACAC selection.
“The big thing for us is, this is the third local Division I athlete that wants to play for us,” Paul said. “Hopefully, this helps us start knocking some doors down and people realize this isn't the school it used to be.”
Gary committed reasonably early in her recruitment to Akron, so Paul and IPFW never really got involved with the 6-foot-1 forward.
“I liked her as a player (in high school), but she did not seem all that interested,” Paul said. “It is surprising (she has come to IPFW), but we are thrilled.”
While Paul hopes the local recruiting momentum continues, on-court success will have just as big of a role in getting the attention of northeast Indiana girls basketball players.
The Mastodons have had back-to-back losing seasons after the 2010-11 20-win campaign that saw the program earn a postseason berth into the Women's Basketball Invitational.
But optimism abounds with the return of reigning Summit League Player of the Year Amanda Hyde, as well as twins Rachel and Stefanie Mauk
Paul hopes the influx of local talent helps in this upcoming season, but also in the future both on the court and on the recruiting trail.
“It has been an uphill battle, but one that we have pushed very hard,” said Paul when asked about recruiting local athletes to IPFW. “We really want the Division I athlete to stay in town and play for us if it is a good fit in our scheme and with our school.
“We want to keep as many of them home as possible.”
Add Gary to the growing list of those who have made that decision.