FORT WAYNE – Miss Basketball Jessica Rupright is someone younger basketball players can look up to – literally. That’s why the 6-foot-2 Norwell center is the winner of the 2012 Nancy Rehm Award.
The award is named after the late Nancy Rehm, a former Bishop Luers and Indiana Tech standout who was killed in 1982, and is given to an individual who has had a significant influence in women’s athletics. Rupright will receive the award at Saint Francis on Saturday between the girls and boys games of the 20th annual Nancy Rehm/Border Wars Classic, sponsored by The Journal Gazette and McDonald’s.
They always have someone to look up to and be a role model for them, Rupright said. It is something I have always set for myself, to be that role model. I just tell them to have big dreams and chase them. Winning Miss Basketball was always something I dreamed about since I was in sixth grade. To actually accomplish it and receive it is such an honor, so you should never have regrets of what you do.
Rupright said her coaches told Norwell’s players that what they do on and off the court could be emulated by the youth in the Ossian community and beyond.
(Younger players) just knowing us and see what we do is important to represent Norwell and always have that good attitude for them, she said.
Rupright is the 10th player from northeast Indiana to be named Miss Basketball and the second from Norwell. Teri Rosinski received the honor in 1977. The last two Miss Basketballs from the area – Warsaw’s Jaclyn Leininger in 2004 and Wawasee’s Shanna Zolman in 2002 – also won the Nancy Rehm Award.
Rupright is the all-time leading scorer (1,591) and rebounder (728) at Norwell, and the Miami of Ohio recruit led Norwell to a 84-10 record in four years.
Rupright, whose influences are Candace Parker, Lisa Leslie and Brittany Griner, was pushed by her AAU coach Jim Wilson and Norwell coach Eric Thornton.
Wilson began coaching Rupright on Indiana Elite teams in the fourth grade and later Spiece teams and also was an assistant coach for the Knights.
He has made me the player I am today, Rupright said of Wilson. I wouldn’t be at this level without him. He is always getting in my face and telling me what I need to do, at the bad moments and the good moments and just pushing me to that next level.