The Legacy of Ashley Overbeek

Once upon a time our Athletic Director, Jerry Haggerty, was persuaded to pay special attention to a particular middle school basketball game.  He had heard rumors of a gifted young Girls Basketball player who had supposedly risen to the “next level” of skill, and had become more of a standout among her teammates.  At first, Haggerty was unsure what to think of the hype surrounding her, wondering if it was all just exaggeration.

It’s safe to say, Haggerty was never happier to be proven wrong.

With only five seconds on the clock before halftime, Ashley Overbeek had taken possession of the ball.  With a full court between her and the basket, she would be hard-pressed to make a quality shot before the buzzer.  She was conscious enough to stop, look at the clock, and evaluate her situation before proceeding.  There was hardly a second to think only five seconds to make something happen.  So she shouted for the ball to be rolled to her, to keep time from resuming, and went to work: weaving her way down the court, each stride punctuated by another dribble.  When she reached the 3-point line, she steadied herself, took a brief moment to calculate her shot, and drained it to the sound of the buzzer.

The basket itself may have been impressive to watch, but it was the acute mental awareness Ashley had demonstrated before hand that truly took Haggerty by surprise.  Even now, over four years later, Haggerty recalls the spectacle in photographic detail and remembers how her sense and vision set her apart from anyone else on the floor that day.  He envisioned a successful high school sports career for the young athlete, and was excited for the improvements that experience and maturity would bring.

Haggerty, quickly joined by many who have taken interest in Ashley’s athletic career, has spent four years watching her realize her athletic potential.  All this has culminated in her senior year, in which Ashley broke Hamilton’s scoring record for Girls Varsity Basketball and has retained a consistent 20-22 points per game average throughout the season.  Previously, she was awarded all-state honorable mention in Girls Soccer during her Freshmen season, and again won recognition for her ability on the field last year.

With her goal of a successful high school sports career almost realized, it leaves one wondering what impact she has left on Hamilton sports.  Beyond her game, how has she been a force of change on our sports programs?

“She shifted the mentality of what good basketball should look like,” Haggerty said.  Ever since he first saw her play, he has watched her confidence and positive energy increase with each game, both on and off the court.  She is naturally a strong, aggressive player who can deliver on both assists and baskets, but she has been working since day one to bring her defense and rebounding up to that same level.  Those latter two aspects in particular are standouts among the skills that she’s really worked hard to refine.

Coach VanHekken has also seen Ashley grow as a player, and as a person, over the years.  She joined his team four years ago as a young, eager contender.  Now she is a veteran, and has completely remade herself as a basketball player.

“She knows the expectations,” VanHekken said, reflecting on how Ashley’s knowledge of basketball has allowed her to bring positive encouragement to her teammates and lead through her example.   She and the other seniors, Maddy Sharar, Rachael Tolsma, and Brogan McMahon, have proven to be more than just valuable players; they have been valuable teammates who bring positive energy and guidance to the rest of the team.  Taking that extra step in offering not only an example for others to strive for, but to actually go out of her way to help others get there, has made her impact on the team that much more meaningful.

Brogan McMahon and Rachael Tolsma have been impressed by the way the younger players have stepped up their game.  “(the younger players) are playing above their age,” Brogan said.  Their aggression on the court has increased from the somewhat timid style they had at the beginning of the year, Rachael added. VanHekken is certainly glad he can rely on such a stable senior group to help lead his team.

VanHekken has also been impressed with Ashley’s resiliency, particularly regarding the shoulder injury she sustained in the Spring of her Sophomore year.  Requiring surgery and a six month hiatus from playing basketball, it put pressure on her to recover in time for the next season.  “I wasn’t allowed to shoot,” Ashley lamented.   Thankfully, she made full recovery and was able to continue her career with two more successful seasons for the Hamilton Varsity team.  Now she is contemplating her collegiate sports career, and weighing the options before committing.

But beyond just her personal records and recognition, Ashley has brought something to Hamilton that few athletes have: a new standard for excellence.  She has changed the game at Hamilton forever.  She will be the yardstick that every girls basketball player who comes after her will be measured against, and her presence will remain long after she has moved on.

Ashley Overbeek’s legacy, the memory of her commanding presence and skill in both basketball and soccer, will no doubt inspire others to reach for greatness too.

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