VERSAILLES – Versailles senior, Brooke Stonebraker recently signed to continue her education while playing basketball for the NCAA D-I Northern Illinois University (NIU) Lady Huskies.
“When I was first making my decision I wanted to stay closer to home but I also thought of trying to get out of my comfort zone,” Stonebraker said of her choice schools. “I thought it would be a better option to try going further away and still having those games that are close to home.”
“It’s a huge deal and it’s an awesome opportunity for Brooke,” said Versailles coach Tracy White. “I was super excited when I heard that she committed and was going to go play Division-I women’s basketball.”
Stonebraker, the daughter of Shane and Jacki Stonebraker will continue her education with studies in Graphic Design and a minor in Marketing.”
The NIU Lady Huskies basketball program competes in the Mid-American Conference led by veteran coach Lisa Carlsen.
“We are very excited about Brooke joining our Huskie family,” said Carlsen. “She absolutely provides something that we don’t have on our roster as far as size.”
“We know she comes from a great lineage of athletes and her upside is tremendous,” Carlsen added. “We know Brooke will be a great fit with our current culture. Having a student athlete from Ohio and the familiarly with the MAC made NIU a good choice.”
“She is really nice,” Stonebraker said of Coach Carlsen. “My mom said she reminded her of herself so that’s kind of cool. She is super nice, super well connected with the players and I’m very excited to be joining the program.”
The Mid-American Conference (MAC), a conference with strong ties to Ohio and a membership base in the Great Lakes region that stretches from Western New York to Illinois headquartered in Cleveland, OH.
Member teams include Ohio schools: Ohio University, Miami University, Kent State, Toledo, Bowling Green and Akron.
Rounding out the 12 member conference is Ball State, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Buffalo.
NIU is located in DeKalb, IL a city of 43,862 with a 310 mile driving distance from Versailles.
“It’s nice because we are playing teams like Bowling Green and Toledo,” Stonebraker noted of her choice of NIU. “Many of those schools are around our home area so it’s nice although I’m going further away, I am still playing close to home.”
Stonebraker played on two Versailles Lady Tigers’ state championship volleyball teams but chose basketball at the next level.
“I saw the connection more with basketball,” Stonebraker stated. “I still love the game of volleyball but basketball there is a stronger connection with it especially in the family. Basketball is always the sport so that is what I mostly focused on.”
The 6’3” Stonebraker joins a NIU Lady Huskies program that did not count an Ohio player on the 2019-2020 NIU Lady Huskies roster with the tallest player standing 6’2”.
Stonebraker, a great high school defensive shot blocker looks to take advantage of her height at NIU.
“I will probably be a more dominant post,” Stonebraker said. “I’ve been that basically my whole life, my high school career. They said depending on my development over the summer – we’re going to see at the end of the summer and see how well you fit in.”
“Brooke is super coachable,” Coach White noted. “When you get to the college level, especially Division-I, there are taller girls around. She is used to being one of the tallest girls in high school, but she played on a really good AAU team this past summer and played against girls that were taller than her and the same height as her. She is going to arise to the occasion. She works her tail off and when she wants something she goes and gets it.”
“Brooke set goals and she accomplished those, she was a leader on and off the court,” White added. “She stepped up really big for us this year in going from her role last year to what she did for us this year was huge.”
The NIU Lady Huskies are coming off an 11-19 season, a year that saw many close games.
“I looked at a lot of their games and a lot of their games were super close,” Stonebraker noted. “They are not far off, they are good competition so I am excited for the competition.”
“Brooke has the ability to shoot midrange and the 3-pointer as well,” Coach White said. “She is a great free throw shooter. She worked at it in practice, she was focused and she has that routine down. It was a benefit to her throughout the season and it is only going to continue to be at the next level.”
Stonebraker’s AAU basketball play helped in the college recruiting process.
“I played with the Cincinnati Angels AAU basketball this past summer,” she said. “That was just an amazing experience and I will forever be grateful for that. We traveled everywhere and it was a really good club, mostly from the Columbus, Cincinnati areas.”
“We had our practices in Mason so I would travel an hour and 20 minutes but it was definitely worth it,” added Stonebraker. “There were people that traveled two hours to go to practice. We were from all over Ohio.”
Stonebraker took time to thank the many that helped reach her goals, beginning with her family.
“I would like to thank my parents, my Versailles basketball team, all those seniors, all my coaches and my Cincinnati Angels basketball team – they are amazing,” said Stonebraker.
“My mother has driven me everywhere for AAU, those hour and a half drives. I am very thankful for that.”
“My dad is always at my games, my mom always at my games,” Stonebraker concluded. “When she took the principal’s job it was a little bit different. We knew the assistant coaches. They were good and being assistant coaches the previous year they knew us so they knew our style and that was the biggest part, just knowing the team.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Versailles senior, Brooke Stonebraker signs to play basketball for the NCAA D-I Norther Illinois Lady Huskies basketball program. (Front L-R) Shane Stonebraker (father), Stonebraker, Jacki Stonebraker (mother). (Back L-R) Connor Stonebraker (brother) and Maddox Stonebraker (brother).