Erin Heatherton knows basketball — or at least don’t tell her that you think otherwise.

In the Skokie native and Niles North High School graduate’s guest-starring role as a youth basketball coach on TV’s “The League,” the model scared Steve Rannazzissi and his on-screen wife, Katie Aselton, into pushups and sprints with her intense disciplinary style.

In real life, she’s much nicer and is armed with a sense of humor that explains why she was cast in the role. Heatherton has also appeared in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show and covered in body paint for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

In an interview, Heatherton  talked about basketball and her March Madness picks and the pressures a model faces.

What’s your key to filling out a bracket?

“So what I learned to do is look at the statistics of the percentage of wins when the team was away because all the teams play away, and the NCAA is very much a confidence-based tournament. It’s a very mental game. It’s not professiona,l like the kids are young and really excited. This is their first big moments. Yeah, I think that’s a good way to go.”

How do you think the age of college players plays into the mental pressure they face?

“I think it’s really easy to believe that sometimes these people are superhuman, or they don’t crumble under pressure sometimes. I definitely understand from being put under pressure at such a young age and from playing basketball that it’s so much a confidence game. It’s so much a mental game. You see that in the NBA, too, when players come back from being injured. You see a lot of the mental game and how when you’re undefeated or doing really well, like Kentucky, how that makes you even more unstoppable. They could be the same team and have lost two or three games, but because they are undefeated, they just instill fear in their opponents. That’s why they’re my pick. We can edit that and jump ahead, whatever.”

There’s a lot of pressure in modeling as well, I’d have to imagine. What’s that atmosphere like?

“From my experience, modeling has always been, there has always been a lot of camaraderie. Models are, they kind of get a bad wrap, but all the models I know are such genuine, intelligent, sweet, kind, interesting people. That’s not everybody, but they’re not mean, competitive people generally at all. In a fashion show, there is a different kind of dynamic than in a shoot or in life. I guess it is kind of more of the game. You’re going out there and it’s you alone and there’s, there’s not the same sense of unity unless you have some good friends there so, yeah there’s some catfights sometimes, you know. Average.”

Erin Heatherton, modeling.

Erin Heatherton, modeling.

You’re from Illinois, and a big Bulls fan. Things aren’t going so great right now …

“Yeah, I mean, it’s a classic Chicago situation. It’s like so close, and then so far. Derrick Rose has definitely been… I mean to wake up in the morning and hear that DR has been injured the night before, you’re just like “noooo.” I think that’s the most annoying part about watching basketball is the injuries and how they affect the whole team. But for the Chicago Bulls, you see players like Jimmy Butler come up and Pau Gasol, and then you get to see some amazing things happen and players step up.”

This was Erin Heatherton’s bracket:

Erin Heatherton's bracket

Erin Heatherton’s bracket

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