Long before Nicole Konieczny played a high school game, LaPorte head coach Skeeter Heath knew he had a star in waiting. The guard was not even in 8th grade yet when she joined her future teammates for a summer tournament.
"Nicole had the ball in her hands, didn't hesitate," Heath remembers. "Just went right to rim, made a shot to win the game. So, it was obvious real quick that she wasn't afraid to take a big shot and is capable of making a big shot."
Konieczny has hit plenty of those shots already for the Slicers. Just a freshman, Konieczny leads undefeated LaPorte (14-0) with 16 points per game.
She is no stranger to the big moment. Her AAU team has won multiple state championships and made it to the national Final Four last year.
"It's been the best part of my life, playing AAU basketball," says Konieczny, who started in the third grade. "It's so exciting, all the weekend traveling and all that."
"She's just been in a ton of exciting games and meaningful games, high pressure situations," says her father, Doug Konieczny.
Doug has been with her every step of the way. He is in his fourth year as a Slicers assistant, but has coached his daughter in some capacity since middle school.
"He's my coach in practice, so I treat him like a coach," Nicole says of their balance on the court and at home. "Outside of practice, he's my dad."
"It's pretty obvious watching her play that it's working, so you don't want to break what's working," says Heath, whose own daughter, Jaclyn, is LaPorte's senior point guard. "I think they have a pretty special relationship."
It is shaping up to be a special season in LaPorte, where the Slicers have already won more games than in any other season in Heath's 11 years at the helm.
The team is closing in on the program's first ever Duneland Conference title.
"Our team is a team of best friends," Nicole says. "It's really easy for us to get along."
"We don't have a lot of personalities like her," Heath says of his bubbly, out-going freshman. "I think that's kind of added a little bit to that enthusiasm. It's been good having her around."
And the best news for both coaches? They will have Nicole, who is already receiving interest from major college programs, for three more years.