February 19, 2010

Dana Wieller: Standout Freshman

BLOOMSBURG- Walking onto the court for the first time in a freshman's collegiate career, there are a million different things going on inside their head. The nerves build and the adrenaline gets pumping, especially being one of the team's five starters. As a freshman, Dana Wieller has taken on the role as one of the key players for the Bloomsburg women's basketball team as the leading scorer and leading three-point converter.

Despite her initial nerves, Wieller got off to a hot start scoring 18 points, shooting 7-of-14 from the field, including 4-of-8 from behind the arc in her first game as a Bloomsburg Husky. She went on to average 22 points and 30 minutes in the first four games of her career. She received her first Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Eastern Division Freshman of the Week award for her performance in the season-opening victory over Chestnut Hill. Looking more like an upperclassman than a freshman, Wieller stepped up from the beginning of the season and has been a force to be reckoned with.

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Coming to Bloomsburg, Wieller had years of basketball experience under her belt. Playing in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) leagues, she was used to year-round basketball. She also added many accomplishments to her high school resume. As a junior at Liberty High School in Bethlehem, Wieller hit her 1,000th point and went on to become the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,334 career points. Despite only participating in 10 games of her final season, Wieller is considered one of the best players to come out of the Lehigh Valley in recent years.

The transition into college wasn't hard for Wieller because of all the basketball she was used to playing. Not many athletes make it to this level, because it is a huge commitment that they are unable to make. "You have to love it," says Wieller. "You have to accept that you are not a normal student and it's a lot to balance with school." Wieller has learned to juggle the school work with her sport and also how to adapt. This season has been full of firsts for the freshman. She even experienced her first injury and was forced to miss a game at Shippensburg on January 27. Taking care of herself and allowing time to heal, she came back that Saturday against Kutztown and led the Huskies to a 46-45 win, scoring 16 points including the game-winning layup with just 1.4 seconds left. This was enough to earn her sixth PSAC East Freshman of the Week award.

Wieller attributes much of her collegiate success to her mother, along with her college coaches and teammate Kelsey Gallagher. Wieller's mother, Regina, also played basketball and is not only able to support her daughter, but relate to her as well. "My mom has always been like a teammate to me and she motivated me to play at the next level," says Wieller.

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Wieller committed to Bloomsburg during the NCAA's early signing period in November of her senior year. "Dana caught our eye with her ability to see the court, quick first step, and of course that three-point shot," says head women's basketball coach Bill Cleary. The coaching staff here at Bloomsburg caught her eye as well. "I have a lot of respect for them," says Wieller of her coaches. Seemingly a perfect fit, Wieller couldn't ask for better teammates.

Kelsey Gallagher has been a mentor for Wieller during her freshman season. The two are very similar players and are serious threats on the court. "Kelsey is so mentally tough and she always pushes herself. I look up to her as a teammate and as a person," says Wieller of her captain. Gallagher won eight PSAC East freshman of the week awards last year. Now with seven awards under her belt, Wieller is one away from tying her.

Heading into Saturday's game against Millersville, Wieller leads the team in scoring at 16.2 points per game, which ranks sixth in the PSAC. She has hit double figures in 19-of-22 games and scored over 20 points seven times, including a season-high 29 against Nyack College. Wieller is now Bloomsburg's record holder for three's in a single season with 68, topping Michelle Albanese's 67 set during the 2003-2004 season.

Wieller looks to keep on improving her game over the next three-plus years of her collegiate career. "Dana's character is what makes her a special player," says Cleary. "She is always looking to get better and she doesn't settle." That first game against Chestnut Hill was a sign of what was yet to come for Wieller. The freshman's ultimate goal is to play overseas someday, but for now leading her team to the PSAC tournament is the goal that she and the Bloomsburg Huskies are set to reach.