WILMETTE — Sarah Elston is not an unfamiliar name around the Loyola girls basketball program. A three-year varsity player, the 6-foot-1 junior started as a sophomore. But last season, as well as during her freshman year, Elston played mostly away from the basket.
This year she is learning to play the post. And she’s just starting to get the hang of it.
“She came in and showed she can shoot from the perimeter. That’s where she likes to play,” Ramblers coach Jeremy Schoenecker said.
This season, Elston is being asked to move from the area she is most comfortable — around the arc — into the paint. For a player as tall as Elston, spending more minutes on the blocks would seem normal.
But there’s been a learning curve as Elston plays center for the first time.
“Making the transition as an aggressive post has been difficult,” Elston said. “The past few years, the focus was more on defense and helping out on offense. I can shoot it from the outside. I’m trying to step up in the post and the wing.”
To get Elston up to speed, each portion of practice consists of drills designed to get her comfortable with her back to the basket.
“I’ll take one dribble one way then dribble and drop step the other way,” Elston said. “I’m working on turning my shoulders towards the basket rather than fade away.”
Schoenecker added: “She likes to drift. We remind her she can be dominating, that we want her to live on the blocks. Let the outside game be secondary.”
The growing pains of Elston’s transformation showed in the Ramblers’ game against Carmel on Jan. 14. Defended well by Corsairs junior forward Sarah Rappe, Elston struggled getting possessions in the post. Where she shined was on defense and from a familiar spot, the perimeter.
Late in the second quarter, she slid over and blocked a baseline shot from Carmel senior guard Kathleen Felicelli. Earlier in the quarter, she drained a 3-point shot from the top of the arc that keyed an 8-1 Loyola run.
It was proof that while Elston is developing as a post, she can still impact the game in a positive way.
“Sarah is a huge power player for us. She’s always tough in there, makes the plays she’s supposed to make,” senior guard Maggie Nick said. “She opens up the whole offense, always does what she’s supposed to do.”
With aspirations of playing in college, Elston said she enjoys the grind of practice sessions and will continue to work on her back-to-the-basket moves.
“I love learning how to improve parts of my game. If I’m stressed out about school, every day I get to the gym I forget about that and play basketball,” Elston said. “It’s part of a routine and not only helps me grow as a basketball player but grow as a person.”