Books and basketball are important to Jordan Rettig of Sugar Grove. So is Books and Basketball.
When it comes to the lowercase variety, the 2010 Rosary High School graduate figures she couldn’t do much better than Washington University in St. Louis. U.S. News & World Report ranks the school 14th on its list of best colleges and universities – ahead of some Ivy League schools – and the women’s basketball team is a perennial NCAA Division III national championship contender.
Rettig turned down scholarship offers from some Division I schools to attend Washington University.
“It’s a great academic school, obviously, and they have a great basketball program, which sparked my interest,” she said. “I’ve loved it down here. It’s a beautiful campus, great people. It’s still in the Midwest, so I can drive home if I want to see my family.”
Rettig, a 6-foot junior, is a starting forward for the Bears. She’s also involved in other campus organizations, including the Student Athletic Advisory Committee, Pi Beta Phi sorority, and Books and Basketball, a nonprofit organization founded several years ago by a Washington University student.
“We go out into the St. Louis area and tutor kids in third through fifth grades,” Rettig said. “We play with them afterwards.”
The Books and Basketball program began with five tutors visiting a St. Louis public elementary school once a week and spending about 45 minutes helping students with homework or their studies in general, followed by recreational time which might include basketball or other games like capture the flag and freeze tag. According to the organization’s website, it now has 150 student volunteers from Washington University mentoring children at three different schools.
“You really get to build a relationship with the students,” Rettig said. “It’s just great to see them progress. … It’s really fulfilling.”
Also fulfilling has been Rettig’s experience with the women’s basketball program. As a freshman, she played in 27 games, starting eight, averaging seven points and four rebounds a game. Her playing time and numbers declined slightly during her sophomore season, but this year she has started all 18 games the Bears have played, averaging 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity to bring the level of energy that you want to see from your teammates,” Rettig said of moving into the starting lineup. “It’s a great leadership position.”
She notes that although the team has a large roster (21 players), there are few upperclassmen (two seniors and three juniors).
Rettig recorded a double-double in a December victory over St. Louis neighbor Fontbonne University, scoring 18 points and pulling down 11 rebounds.
“I think my biggest contribution is defense,” Rettig said. “This year, I’ve been focusing a lot on rebounding and boxing out. That’s something that’s always in the player’s control. … Our coach has been really emphasizing that this season as well.”
That coach is Nancy Fahey, who in 2012 became the first Division III representative to be inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Knoxville, Tenn.
“I’ve learned a ton from her. She’s an amazing coach,” Rettig said. “She makes an effort to know each player as individuals. I think that’s part of what makes her so successful.”
Fahey’s teams have compiled a record of 632-115 in her 27 years at Washington University. The Bears have won five national championships during her tenure.
“My freshman year, we made it to the championship game,” Rettig said. “Winning a national championship is definitely something we hope to accomplish.”
The Bears (15-3) have been consistently ranked in the top 10 this season, though a loss in their last game at Case Western Reserve dropped them to No. 12.
“I think we’ve had an extremely competitive season,” Rettig said, pointing out that the squad has played some very tough competition.
“We lost to the No. 1 team in the nation [DePauw] by one point,” she continued. “I’m really proud of our season so far and we’re expecting big things to come.”
• Dennis D. Jacobs writes the weekly On Campus column for the Kane County Chronicle. To submit information on area athletes competing in college, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.