West Xtra: Ambridge grad part of Edinboro pipeline
Stan Swank isn't concerned about going to the well too often. As women's basketball coach at Edinboro University, he knows exactly where to find top-notch talent when he needs it.
"There's something in the water at Ambridge," he said.
Swank has developed a long line of success not only in recruiting top players out of Ambridge, but turning them into key contributors who have made his Fighting Scots one of the top NCAA Division II programs year after year.
• Callie (Iorfido) Wheeler (2002-06) is the school's all-time assists leader (682), ranks fourth in steals (283) and eighth in free throws made (275). She currently is Swank's assistant coach.
• Kelly Calderone (2004-07) is third all time in 3-point field-goal percentage (.343), fifth in 3-pointers made (153) and sixth in scoring (1,460 points).
• Jodi Calderone (2001-05) is third all time in 3-pointers made (209), ninth in 3-point field-goal percentage (.320) and tied for 10th in free-throw percentage (.750).
• Mandie Iorfido (2005-06) played sparingly in basketball but was an all-conference catcher on the softball team and is seventh in doubles (21), eighth in games played (138) and ninth in hits (118).
"We've had some great players here from Ambridge," Swank said. "They've all been spectacular players."
But perhaps none have been as spectacular as the most recent Ambridge connection, senior guard Kiara "Ki-Ki" Brown.
Currently the leading scorer in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference at 17.4 points per game, Brown has developed into a steadying force for the Fighting Scots, playing the point when needed, hitting the clutch basket when asked, finding the open teammate and making the big defensive stop.
"Ki-Ki is the girl," Swank said. "She leads a lot more by action than anything else. At times it's kind of bad because they want to just get on her back and let her take care of everything. She's so good, at times the kids have a tendency to just stand around and watch her."
There's been plenty to watch of Brown, but not all of it has been at McComb Fieldhouse.
Brown, this week's PSAC West player of the week, originally began her collegiate career at California University of Pennsylvania, but after redshirting her first year and starting six of the 26 games the next season and averaging 8.1 points per game, a new coaching staff decided she wasn't in their future.
"It just didn't work out," she said. "There were some personal things that didn't make me feel a part of the team. They ended up letting me go. It really wasn't my choice, they were just like, we're not going to renew your scholarship. I had to find somewhere else to go.
"My senior year in high school [Edinboro] was recruiting me and after I made the decision to go to Cal, coach Swank said to me, 'If it doesn't work out at Cal, I'll always have something for you here at Edinboro.' It didn't work out so I called them and they were more than glad to have me."
Thus eliminating no doubt countless hours of Swank having to draw up a defensive game plan to stop Brown.
"I don't know what I would do," he said. "I'm just glad she left Cal and came here. If I had to defend her, I'm not sure what we would do.
"We had somebody play a box-and-one on her and it was pretty effective the one game. We made adjustments and somebody came and tried it the very next game and she destroyed them."
A 5-foot-8 guard, Brown poses problems for opposing defenses because of her quickness and her ability to put the ball in the basket. After stepping in and playing the point last season for the first time when starting point guard Laurel Lindsay (South Park) was lost for the season due to injury, Brown has developed into a multi-threat on offense.
"My first year playing the point guard last year it was hard because I was so used to just taking off instead of remembering to come back to get the ball and set up the offense," said Brown, a Post-Gazette Fabulous Five selection at Ambridge.
"Now, if I feel like I need a break, the original point guard will take over for a little bit. Usually I have a break with either Laurel Lindsay or Kerry Connelly (Sto-Rox). It's not as bad as it was, but I'm a senior, so I'm pretty much willing to do whatever I have to do."
Not only is Brown at the top of the conference in scoring, she also ranks second in steals per game (2.9), sixth in field-goal percentage (.388), 13th in free-throw percentage (.755) and 15th in assists (2.8). She has helped the Fighting Scots to a No. 2 ranking in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region and a No. 18 spot in the WBCA USA Today Sports Division II Top 25.
In just three years at Edinboro, Brown has scored 1,210 points and needs just four steals to become the 10th player in school history to score 1,000 points with 200 steals.
Last season as a junior she was a first-team All-PSAC West selection and just the fourth WBCA first-team All-American in school history in leading Edinboro as high as No. 2 in the national rankings.
Edinboro (20-5, 17-4) has clinched a first-round bye in the PSAC tournament after securing second place behind Gannon (25-3, 19-2). The Fighting Scots wrapped up the regular season Wednesday night with a home game against Mercyhurst, Brown's final regular-season game at McComb Fieldhouse. The PSAC tournament begins March 5.
"I'm very proud of my accomplishments," she said. "If somebody would have told me my freshman year at Cal I would be an All-American and a 1,000-point scorer in college I would look at you like, 'Really? No way.' It's amazing. I'm just so blessed to be where I am.
"I wouldn't change anything for the world. We've done so well. It's been an amazing ride, it's going to be sad to see it come to an end."
First Published February 28, 2013 12:00 am