DANVILLE — Erin Houpt is a talented tennis player.
With a low center of gravity at 5-foot-6, as well as quick feet and hands courtesy her basketball abilities, Houpt was a News-Gazette All-Area first-team honoree in girls’ tennis as a sophomore.
And yet, a quick look at Danville’s roster in that sport this school year shows no Erin Houpt.
“When I came in my freshman year, I knew I was going to at least play for one year,” Houpt said. “But I had a lot of fun my freshman year, so then I played again last year.”
What changed as Houpt entered the second half of her high school lifetime?
The aforementioned basketball.
It’s safe to say Houpt is even better on the hardwood court than a tennis court.
After all, she’s also a defending N-G All-Area first-team recipient in girls’ hoops. Houpt earned that plaudit by leading the area with 20.3 points per game, as well as averaging 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 2.7 steals.
“This year, I think I just wanted to focus on basketball and school,” Houpt said of her choice to set aside tennis. “It was a good decision, but I do miss it. It was fun.”
Also fun is Houpt drawing interest from Division I women’s college basketball programs.
That hit full stride over the previous summer, when Houpt garnered an offer from Tasha Pointer’s staff at Illinois-Chicago.
This coincided with older brother Sean, a 2019 Danville graduate, accepting a spot on the Bradley men’s basketball team.
“I’ve been talking to some more colleges, and I think they’re going to be coming to our high school soon,” Erin Houpt said. “So that should be good, and a few have come to our open gyms.”
The Viking girls have finished above .500 in each of Houpt’s first two seasons. They went 19-9 when she was a freshman and 16-15 last year.
Simultaneously, the Danville boys have been soaring.
The Vikings rose all the way to a Class 4A sectional final earlier this calendar year and return all but one starter from that 2018-19 roster — Sean Houpt.
Houpt is close with members of that team. Hard for her not to be, considering her brother was on it and her dad, Ted, coached it before stepping down after last season.
“I’ve been working out with some of the boys and playing with them,” Erin Houpt said. “I’ve been working out with Nathanael Hoskins a lot. We work out at the Y(MCA) all the time.”
Hoskins recently took a visit to Indiana State, so there two athletes bearing like-minded goals entering these practice sessions.
What exactly do they entail?
“We do a lot of skill work at first,” Houpt said, “and then at the end we do more 2-on-2, 3-on-3 competition, which is good. I go against stronger and bigger people.”
That’s one thing Houpt’s game is lacking: vertical size.
She’s well aware that, even though there are similarly sized guards at the D-I women’s level, she’ll have to compensate for her height to a certain extent.
“I needed to get a lot faster and stronger (this offseason). I think I have,” Houpt said. “I’ve been doing sprints and lifting at the track, which I think helped me a lot.”
While Houpt’s biggest concern right now is readying for her first campaign under new Viking girls’ coach Zach Patterson, she’s also preparing for her next AAU stint.
It’ll be critical to Houpt’s college prospects if she’s not already committed.
She spent the most recent session with Midwest Elite, based out of the Chicago suburb of Deerfield.
Things went well, according to Houpt. Yet, as with her decision to drop tennis, Houpt is turning a different direction in AAU.
“The Indiana Flight, they reached out to me and said they were in need of a point guard,” Houpt said, “and there’s already two point guards on Midwest Elite, so I just think this is just a better fit for me.”
Here’s one more interesting question: How might Houpt fit in with the Bradley women’s program, on the same college campus as her older sibling?
“I’ve talked to them before,” Houpt said, “but they just had a few girls in my class commit, so I’m not sure if they have any more spots for my year or not.”
Keep them on the radar
Five of last year’s 10 News-Gazette All-Area first-team girls’ basketball players graduated, leaving another five as favorites to repeat in that category. This also means other individuals must step up to fill the voids. Here’s a look at some kids to keep an eye on, courtesy preps coordinator Colin Likas:
RETURNING ALL-AREA FIRST-TEAMERS
Capria Brown, Sr., Schlarman
Last year’s averages: 18.9 points, 3.4 assists
Outlook: Dayton signee will be the team leader after graduation of four seniors from defending two-time Class 1A state-champion Hilltoppers.
Erin Houpt, Jr., Danville
Last year’s averages: 20.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 2.7 steals
Outlook: Holding an offer from Illinois-Chicago, she’s looking to make strides with an additional year of college recruitment remaining.
Emily Meidel, Sr., Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin
Last year’s averages: 18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 3.2 steals
Outlook: Also a stellar volleyball player, Meidel will be big for BHRA with Annie Nelson’s departure.
Chanice Willis, Sr., Champaign Central
Last year’s averages: 16.6 points, 2.7 assists, 4.0 steals
Outlook: Willis is the centerpiece of a Maroons outfit that should rise, with few 2019 graduations.
Katelyn Young, Sr., Oakwood
Last year’s averages: 19.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.7 steals
Outlook: The Murray State signee will look to become a four-time All-Area first-teamer this season.
ADDITIONAL PLAYERS TO WATCH
ATHLETE YR. SCHOOL
Tayler Barry Jr. Tri-County
Kyleigh Block Jr. Villa Grove/Heritage
Mackenzie Bruns Sr. Paxton-Buckley-Loda
Sierra Bryant Sr. Bismarck-Henn./Ross.-Alvin
Baylee Cosgrove Jr. Paxton-Buckley-Loda
Mallory Cyrulik So. Clinton
Silvia Du Sr. Centennial
Alexa Franklin Sr. Arthur Christian School
Renni Fultz So. Monticello
Aija Gwin Jr. Champaign Central
KayLee Hohlbauch Jr. Arcola
Aliya Holloman Sr. Villa Grove/Heritage
Sidney Hood Sr. Fisher
Alarea Jackson Sr. Urbana
Elyce Knudsen Sr. Unity
River Rosales Sr. Ridgeview
Mackenzie Russell Jr. Salt Fork
Raevyn Russell Sr. Urbana
Chian Scott Sr. Urbana
Brynn Tabeling Jr. Tuscola
Emily White Jr. Sullivan
Payton Vallee Jr. St. Joseph-Ogden
Gabrielle Williams Sr. Argenta-Oreana
Mye’Joi Williams Sr. Rantoul
Sa’kinah Williams Jr. Judah Christian