The right fit
Butler's Achesinski signs to play basketball at Division II Mercyhurst

Eagle Sports Editor

BUTLER TWP— A full scholarship, a comfortable setting and the chance to get on the court early.
Amy Achesinski got what she was looking for.
The senior center on
Butler's girls basketball team, who already has 1,075 points and 608 rebounds in her high school career, has signed early with Mercyhurst College, a Division IIschool in Erie.
Achesinski also was recruited by a number of Division I schools, Bucknell, Emory (
Ga.), St. Bonaventure and Duquesne among them, but dismissed them from consideration early in the process.
"I decided to look at local Division IIschools and concentrate on them,"Achesinski said. "I never had my heart set on playing Division I basketball.
"Division I takes a lot more time. ... It's a different game."
Before deciding on Mercyhurst, Achesinski was consid
ering California (Pa.), Slippery Rock and Indiana (Pa.), all members of the PSACWest. Butler graduate Kim Nowakowski is a junior center at California.
Bethel Park senior Samantha Loadman, also a fourth-year starter in high school, has been a teammate of Achesinski's on the Rock Solid AAUbasketball squad. She signed early with Mercyhurst as well.
"Sam had verbally committed to Mercyhurst and told their coach about me," Achesinski said. "Coach (Karin)Nicholls figured I was going Division I, so she never really recruited me.
"Once she called and I went up there to visit, everything clicked. It was a good fit. I knew it was the place for me."
Achesinski will major in education at Mercyhurst.
"She will be a program changer,"
Butler coach Dorothea Epps said. "Amy will be a huge impact player at Mercyhurst. She may be the best recruit that school's ever gotten."
Nicholls is ent
ering her third year as coach of Mercyhurst, a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Her teams finished 8-19 each of the past two years, 4-13 in conference play.
In the year before Nicholls arrived, the Lakers finished 1-25. Their last winning season was in 1999-2000, when they finished 15-12. Since then, Mercyhurst has lost 121 of 159 games.
"I was never concerned or worried about whether my college team has been winning or losing,"Achesinski said. "As long as they're making the effort to recruit good players, they're working hard and trying to get better, I'm fine with it."
Achesinski led
Butler in scoring in 20 of the Golden Tornado's 24 games last season. She will be replacing Julie Anderson, a 6-foot senior forward who already has surpassed the 1,000-point plateau at Mercyhurst.
"I see her starting for us for four years with the potential to be a Division IIall-American,"Nicholls said of Achesinski. "She has Division I ability and it takes Division I-caliber players to turn around a Division IIprogram."
Nicholls previously coached at Division I University of Texas-Pan American and set the school's single-season record in wins there. She also turned around
Division IITruman State, which had two winning seasons in 26 years before her arrival.
Truman State finished 22-9 and reached the Division IISweet 16 in Nicholls' fourth year as coach.
Amy will have an impact here next year similar to (North Allegheny graduate) Rachel Divosevic, who scored 20 points and had nine rebounds in her first game with us (Wednesday),"Nicholls said. "Getting Amy and Sam are huge moves for us. They will accelerate the development of this program.
"I'm in this for the long haul. Division I coaching didn't do it for me. I don't like the politics at that level. Mercyhurst is my last coaching stop. I plan to retire here."
Mercyhurst's roster this year features four seniors, two juniors, a sophomore and six freshmen.
"A lot of girls in
Amy's position, with Division I talent, may have felt obligated or pushed to play Division I,"Epps said. "It's to Amy's credit that she never felt that way. She's always seen the big picture."
Achesinski said she didn't want to go to college too far from home, and she wanted a situation that would get her on the court right away.
"I'm used to getting on the court and contributing right away," she said. "Of course, I want to play. I've always played.
"Hopefully, Sam and I can be part of a conference title or two, maybe even a national championship. Being part of a building program will be fun."

• Has recorded 1,075 points and 608 rebounds in three-year varsity career.
• Averaged 16.6 points, 10 rebounds per game last year
• Shot 75.2 percent from free throw line last year
• Scored in double figures in 23 of 24 games last season
• Four-year letterwinner
• Best Offensive Player Award, 2004-06
• First team all-section, 2006
• Second team, all-section, 2005
Track and Field
• Three-year letterwinner, shot put and discus
• Most Improved Field Award, 2005