Friday, February 09, 2001

Little Miami star set early goal

Balser had eyes on scoring record in fifth grade

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Courtney Balser, an 18-year-old senior at Little Miami, is making good on a goal she set seven years ago.

        “When I was in the fifth grade at Butlerville Elementary, Loree Fraley was the speaker at the basketball banquet,” Balser said.

        “She told us she was Little Miami's all-time leading scorer and said that maybe someone in the group could break the record. I told my dad (Dave) then that I was going to do it.”

        True to her promise, Balser not only broke Fraley's scoring record of 1,074 points but also broke the rebounding record of 770 set by Denise Thompson, a 1986 graduate.

        After scoring 24 points in Thursday's season finale against Goshen, Balser has 1,611 career points.

        Balser's success is mirrored in the Panthers' outstanding record of 74-20 the past three-plus seasons under Ed Davis and first-year coach Mark Short.

        “It's amazing how far Ed (Davis) took this team the three previous years,” Short said. “Before Ed took over, the school had losing records every season, but look at us now.”

        A versatile six-foot forward, Balser played during the summer for a Cincinnati AAU team in the YBOA national tournament and also in an All Star Tournament in Washington, D.C.

        Balser will attend Ashland College next year.

        “I didn't want to go to a big city to play,” Balser said. “And Ashland is in the country and reminds me a lot of where I live.”

        Short is not only impressed with Balser as a player but also as a person.

        “Courtney is one of the most humble kids I have ever known,” Short said. “If you walk through the halls at school, you would never knows she's a basketball star.”

        Once the whistle blows to start practice or a game, Balser becomes aggressive.

        “She plays hard 100 percent of the time and isn't afraid to dive on the floor after a ball,” Short said. “She's very strong and quick. She runs the break, shoots the 3-pointer, takes it to the basket and scores inside.”

        Little Miami's offense is built around Balser, Most opponents use gimmick defenses such as a box-and-one or triangle-and-two to hold Balser's point production to a minimum.

        “Courtney has free reign and is on her own during a game,” Short said. “If we need a turnaround in the game, she may hit a 3-pointer or she'll find another way to score.”

        Short described Balser, an honor roll student, as a gym rat.

        “My dad coached me in the fifth and sixth grades at Butlerville Elementary,” Balser said.

        “He loves it so much that he still coaches the fourth, fifth and six grade teams. About every night, he has the gym for four hours and I go with him to shoot and also run the drills with the younger girls.”

        With Balser's personal goals achieved, she plans to go after another one for the team.

        “We reached the District two years ago but we'd like to win it and go to the Regional,” Balser said. “I know it will be tough, but it would be nice to close out going the farthest of any team.”

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