The smallest giant in women’s college basketball remains head and shoulders above the competition this season. The undersized center, expected to play guard when she arrived at just about the only school that recruited her, is from a town called Francis Creek that is exactly as small as it sounds.
And she wants to be a certified public accountant.
Let’s see the good people of Knoxville, Palo Alto, South Bend, Storrs or Waco try that trick.
Nothing about the Green Bay women’s basketball program adds up to a national power if you apply the usual math, yet the Phoenix are once more beating all comers and chasing perfection. Nothing about Julie Wojta adds up to equal one of the best players in the nation if you apply the usual math. Yet here stands the 6-foot senior center, offering every incentive to the coaches who vote for the State Farm All-America team to think long and hard about it first if they decide to leave her out of this season’s list of the 10 top players in the country.
Yet JW wasn’t always one of those players with a score first mentality.
Start with the notion that she might like passing even more than the quarterback who plays across town for the Packers. Wojta scored 24 points against Illinois on a neutral court and 29 points at Wisconsin. She shoots 56 percent from the floor, 86 percent from the free throw line, 40 percent from the 3-point line and ranks 19th in the nation at 19.7 points per game (in addition to 20th in rebounding and 14th in steals). She nevertheless treats shots like a polite dinner guest treats the last roll in the basket.
No, you take it. Really, I insist. I couldn’t possibly …
“That’s something that I’ve struggled with,” Wojta said. “Ever since fourth or fifth grade, I like the assist. I like that team feeling that people get when it goes through all five of us and then we score. I think those are the teams you want to be on; that’s what makes it fun. I’ve struggled with that, and they’ve continued to stay on me. They want me to take 20 shots a game, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy crap, that’s a lot.’ They’re pushing me to do that and I have to realize that they want me to do it to help the team.
“They remind me, ‘No one is going to be mad if you’re taking more shots.'”
Another thing that helps is a level athleticism not seen in many post players.
Like an option quarterback in a world of pocket passers, what makes her so difficult to stop is you don’t have anyone like her. How many other centers excelled at long jump and shot put in high school and get at least one teammate’s vote, in this case junior Sarah Eichler’s, as the fastest player on a college basketball team? Unless you’ve got a heptathlete hanging around, it’s going to be tough finding a match for her on your scout team. And other than Brittney Griner in last year’s Sweet 16, not a lot of opponents have gotten the best of her.
“She’s just too athletic,” Eichler said. “There is that point where — I’ve been playing with her for three years and there are still times where we’ll be playing pickup or we’ll be in practice and Julie will do something and everyone will just stop and be like, ‘Did that really just happen?’ She’s just so athletic. A lot of girls who play the 5 at the college level are 6-2, 6-3 and not very fast laterally, and Julie is 6 feet, but she plays like she’s 6-4. She’s a huge presence inside, and then if you get her on the perimeter, she can drive past most of the people who would ever guard her.”
As a result of JW becoming more selfish is the Phoenix are currently undefeated and ranked #13 in the AP poll and #12 in the Coaches poll.