LEWISTOWN — About 7% of high school athletes (about 1 in 13) play collegiate varsity sports, with less than 2% of high school players (1 in 57) competing in NCAA Division I colleges.
In plain English, it’s extremely difficult to be a Division I student-athlete.
Marissa Gingrich is now a part of that rarefied air after signing her letter of intent Tuesday to play DI basketball at the New Jersey Technical Institute (NJIT).
The all-time Mifflin County girls’ basketball leader in threes and assists and a 1,000-point scorer in her junior season chose the Highlanders over Vermont, South Carolina Upstate, Mount St. Mary’s, Loyola, Md, Lafayette, Cornell, UMBC , LaSalle, American, St. Francis, Pa, Campbell, Navy, Maine and Dayton.
“The coaching staff is phenomenal and very competitive. The facilities are unreal and it’s closer to home than some of the other deals I’ve gotten.” said Gingrich. “The league and the atmosphere, we went to a game there, is incredible. The arena, everything about it, is great. I want to thank my parents for all the sacrifices they made. My teammates, friends, family, everyone.”
NJIT competes in the America East Conference with Binghamton, Albany, Bryant and Vermont, among others. The Highlanders are currently 2-2 in the young season.
Women’s coach Mike Lane loves Gingrich’s versatility.
“Marissa is a real combo guard that’s hard to find. She sees the ground like a point guard and can score like a shooting guard. We play a movement offensive here at NJIT that requires versatile players.” Lane said. “Marissa has skills that allow her to play on and off the ball and score on all three levels – from arch to midrange to color.”
When recruiting, Lane looks for skills, intelligence and team players. He sees the whole package in Gingrich.
“We wanted Marissa to be a Highlander because of her versatility, basketball IQ and athleticism. She’s a very smooth player, knows the game and we’re excited to have her at NJIT.” Lane said. “And at a school like ours, it’s always about overall fitness. Just as she excels on the basketball floor, she excels in the classroom and is a great kid who we think will make a great teammate.”
Marissa is the third in the Gingrich family line to play sports at the Division I level in college. Her grandfather, Dick Gingrich, was a standout football player at Penn State. Her aunt, Krista Gingrich, led Lewistown to back-to-back PIAA basketball championships before joining Duke.
Dick, an assistant coach with the Huskies, knows firsthand the hard work and dedication that it takes to be a Division I athlete.
“You never get the full subsidy. you work for it I know how hard I worked for this and how hard Krista worked for this. Marissa should know better how hard you work. It’s all uphill from here.” he said. “If you want to pay your way through college, you’re better off getting two full-time jobs. You work less than for a full scholarship, but the reward at the end is good.”
Her basketball resume is outstanding: a two-time Jenna Feathers Award winner, third-team All-State selection, Mid-Penn Commonwealth and Keystone All-Star, PennLive Big 15 selection, Mid-Penn Keystone Payer of the Year, three times Team MVP, and she led the Huskies to their first-ever District 6 Class 6A championship last season.
She is also a Key Club, MCTV Crew and Mini-Thon member.
“She sacrificed a lot. Division I athletes don’t come every day. It’s not because she’s my kid, it’s because every Division I athlete has to sacrifice so much.” said Aaron Gingrich, the Mifflin County girls’ basketball coach. “We were down in Richmond and she missed prom. She missed dancing, proms and things like that, but if you’re going to do that (Division I), you have to sacrifice some of those things. I congratulate her. She made the decision. The comfort and camaraderie with the trainers made a huge difference. I’m very proud of her.”
No matter what happens during Marissa’s future at NJIT, nothing can take away her lifetime membership in the 2% Club.
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