ROXANA — Thursday was a big day for Roxana's Maddy Sheraka.
The Shells' all-time leading scorer in girls' basketball signed her name to a letter of intent to continue her basketball career at Southwestern Illinois College at a short ceremony at Roxana High in front of coaches, family, friends and teammates. She was stoked to get the decision out of the way.
“I'm really excited because playing college ball is always one of the things that I've wanted to do,” Sheraka said. “Now I'm finally doing it and I'm ready to get acquainted with the next level.”
She leaves Roxana with a program-best 1,341 points. She surpassed previous leader Angela Payne on Feb. 5 at home in a 55-32 win over Dupo.
She averaged 18.8 points per game to lead the 16-11 Shells in 2014-15. The scoring prowess that Sheraka provided will be hard to replace for head coach Tammy Talbert.
“We're going to have to fill a big shoe when she leaves us,” Talbert said. “Next season we're going to ask some of the younger kids to step up and try to fill her shoes, but some of the things she accomplished during her career were unbelievable. For her moving on it's great. Getting the 1,000 points, getting the career points here at school is really good. Averaging 20 points a game, I was thinking about it the other night, hopefully somebody steps up but probably not because we're going to be pretty young next year. We have players coming through who will be good, but Maddy was a leader on the court also.”
Those leadership skills are something Sheraka credits to her two years playing under Talbert.
“I definitely learned how to be a leader (under coach Talbert),” Sheraka said. “When coach Talbert came in my junior year we were losing Paige Stacy, who was a great leader and Taylor Donahoo, so Anna Whitaker and I and Taylor Stratton had to kind of fill those gaps. I definitely feel like I've learned to be a leader from them.”
As for 17-year SWIC head coach Mike Juenger, there were two aspects of Sheraka's game that made him a huge fan — her shooting ability and her relentless work ethic.
Juenger will have 13 freshmen next season after suffering through an uncharacteristic 12-18 campaign in '14-15.
“It's great for us because we shoot like 25 or 30 3-pointers a game,” Juenger said. “We've been to the national tournament three out of the last four years. Last year was a bad year for us with kids ineligible and kids left early... We're actually starting all over and we're going to have 13 freshmen.
“What I like about Maddy is she plays hard, she can shoot, but she wants to be there. That's a big thing for me this year and she shows up, she works hard, she wants to win and that's what we want. I want to go back to nationals like we did the last three years so signing kids like her are a bonus for my program.”
Sheraka is the total package, not only a talented basketball player, but an exceptional student. When SWIC came knocking she decided to accept because she wants to be an engineer and realized she can kill two birds with one stone there — start her engineering work and play basketball.
“I found out that SWIC has as pre-engineering program which is what I want to do. I want to eventually become an engineer,” Sheraka said. “It just seemed like everything fell into place and it worked out.”
It works out for Sheraka, but Talbert admitted she will definitely be missed in the halls of Roxana High and especially on the court inside Larry Milazzo Gymnasium.
“I'll miss the work ethic in practice and being a leader so the younger kids could see how she actually practiced,” Talbert said. “That's going to be a big thing.”
And Sheraka was quick to admit she'll miss Roxana, too.
“I love this school,” Sheraka said. “I know people complain about high school all the time, but I've had a great experience here. I am ready to start the new chapter in my life though.”
While the realization that her prep career is coming to a conclusion has set in, the idea of being etched in the annals of Shells history as the all-time leading scorer for the girls' basketball program is yet to set in and she's not sure it ever will.
“Not yet, absolutely not,” Sheraka said with a smile. “I still think about it and I'm like, 'I scored a lot of points.' But it still really hasn't sunk in that my name is at the top of the leaderboard right now. Maybe it won't ever sink in, but it is cool to think about though.”