Senior forward Clare Nelson had the best game of her varsity career in Friday’s 47-38 win over New Trier. She scored 19 points and went 7-for-8 from the free throw line. Most importantly, it was her first victory over the Trevians since she’s been in high school.
Maroon & Gold: How much fun was Friday’s game for you?
Clare Nelson: We wanted to win so badly. The boys team had lost to New Trier a couple of days before in overtime, and that was tough to see. I don’t think we had beaten them in like nine years or something, so it was good to get that done.
M&G: Why were you so successful against the Trevians, especially on the offensive end?
CN: Two things. One was I made almost all of my free throws, and I am not a very good free throw shooter. [Loyola head coach Jeremy] Schoenecker will tell you that. The second thing is that I was able to finish around the basket.
M&G: What do you see your role as being on this team?
CN: Creating open shots for the girls to shoot 3-pointers. If I get it inside, I am looking opposite wing. The other thing is when I have the opportunity, I want to make my shots around the basket. Also getting offensive and defensive rebounds is part of my job.
M&G: Tell me about your basketball background. When did you start playing?
CN: Sixth grade at St. Clement [in Chicago]. I never played a lot of travel basketball. Once I got to high school, all I did was play high school basketball. I have never been interested in playing college basketball, so I didn’t think I needed to play year round. I like the sport and I love my team. The best part for me is being around my friends.
M&G: What is an area of your game you continue to work on?
CN: Coach Schoenecker says I don’t need to be able to shoot 3s, but I do need to work on my 15- to 17-foot jump shots. If I’m out that far, I tend to always want to drive the ball. I spend about 25 minutes of practice shooting from the elbows, wings, corners. I want to be more consistent, and that comes shooting, shooting, shooting.
M&G: You mentioned you aren’t good at free throws, but you made them when it counted against New Trier. What changed?
CN: I think it’s mostly in my head. You’re up there, and everybody is around you, looking at you. I don’t do the same shot I would in practice. I think I wanted to beat New Trier so badly that I didn’t think about anything when I was shooting free throws. Coach Schoenecker repeatedly tells us free throws can be a game-changer, and they were that day.
M&G: A concussion sidelined you for the final six weeks of last season. What did you learn from that experience?
CN: I never had a concussion before. I knew something was wrong after the Fenwick game [Jan. 12]. I finished the game, but I was confused and emotional. I got checked out. I’ve learned to be smarter about the way you take charges or set screens. If you’ve had one concussion, you’re more likely to get a second than people who haven’t had one, so I am more aware about the way I practice and play.
M&G: Did you play any other sports growing up?
CN: I used to play volleyball. It was a sport I really liked in grade school, even more than basketball. But I was out of my town my freshman year at Loyola and missed tryouts. I picked up basketball instead.
M&G: Where are you looking to go for college? Do you know what you might want to study?
CN: I don’t know where I am going yet. I am interested in the medical field, maybe nursing or pre-med. I haven’t decided. But I’ve always been interested in working in a hospital.