Wolf leads Lady Wildcats, MAC

Seth Kinker
Sports editor

From the Feb. 20 edition of The Community Post

There was no doubt about it, coming into this year, junior guard Ivy Wolf would be tasked with more in leading a Lady Wildcats basketball program that was coming off of back to back state titles.

"The bar was set high these past two years," said Wolf. "We all know we lost a lot but we can't do anything about it now so all we can do is try and be the best team we can be this year. This is our year, not the last year or two years. I think it was good for us to focus on us and not think about the past, just looking ahead."

On Feb. 22, the Lady Wildcats will face the winner of Parkway and Ridgemont at St. Marys High School at 6:15 p.m.

The Lady Wildcats led the Midwestern Athletic Conference in scoring offense (53.23 ppg.), scoring margin (17.23 ppg.), field goal percentage (41.59%) and three-point field goal percentage (35.53%).

Wolf was a key cog in many of those factors. She shot 48% from the field during the regular season, leading the conference in points per game (19.14), free throw percentage (84.88) and steals (110). She also finished fifth in field goal percentage (48.38), fifth in assists per game (3.55), second in three-point field goal percentage (41.67) and second in three pointers made (50).

On Feb. 19, Wolf was named to the First Team All-MAC and earned Player of the Year honors as well. If you know about Wolf’s affinity for competing, then her improvement this year wouldn’t surprise you.

Future Wildcat Hooper

Wolf comes from a family of athletes and has been around sports and competition ever since she was young.

Her parents, Shelly and James Wolf, both played collegiate sports. Shelly played basketball at Ohio Northern and James played football and baseball at Dayton.

Her older siblings; Ethan, Eli, Delanie and Demaris all are or were athletes. Ethan is a tight end for the Los Angeles Rams, Eli has an upcoming pro-day workout after spending his graduate transfer year as a tight end for the Georgia Bulldogs, Delanie played basketball briefly for Ashland University when they won the national title and Demaris was part of the last two state title teams at Minster.

Suffice it to say competition has always been part of the Wolf household.

“I think it was really good (for me),” said Wolf on always competing with her older siblings growing up. “At the time I didn’t think it was a blessing but looking back I really think it was because being the youngest, you never really won. You had to fight for everything, I think it made me tougher mentally and physically. I think growing up with a lot of siblings, especially older siblings, made me super competitive.”

Shelly was coaching Delanie’s sixth grade team when they lived in Indiana which meant even Ivy was in the gym even before she was playing the sport.

When they moved back to Minster she still followed her older sister into the gym in high school.

“She seemed to just grab onto the sport of basketball,” said former Lady Wildcats head coach and current assistant coach, Nann Stechschulte, who has known Wolf since she was two. “She caught my heart for that reason because that’s my passion too.”

This led to Wolf becoming a team manager at an early age, recording games, giving water bottles to players or whatever else was needed.

Stechschulte recalled Wolf and childhood friend Janae Hoying, also a junior on the team this year, going through dribbling drills at halftime or before games started.

“I had some opposing coaches say to me, they’d watch them going in between the legs and stuff, and they’re like, 'we’re going to retire before they get to high school,'” said Stechschulte.

Ready from the get-go

Wolf was brought up to the varsity team in the summer before her freshman year, playing in summer leagues and camps leading up to the season.

Head coach Mike Wiss said he made the call to bring her up because of her basketball IQ and Stechschulte echoed those sentiments.

“The main thing is physically they have to be able to handle it,” said Stechschulte “Skill wise I knew she was good enough. Then, it’s what’s between the ears. That’s where her biggest strength is. Her mental toughness and basketball IQ are off the charts. One day she’ll make a great coach. She gets the game.”

“Everyone looked up to (her),” said Hoying. “All of our other teammates we’ve been playing with for all these years, seeing that one of our own teammates in our grade was playing at the varsity level was really cool and eye opening for everyone else.”

Wolf admitted she was nervous but the team accepted and encouraged her. In her eyes, she struggled early on but then thought back to the time, effort and years she’d put into the sport and took it upon herself to find her role within the team.

“I didn’t have to be the number one scorer my freshman year. Once I realized that and got the ball where it needed to be, I think I was in good hands,” said Wolf. “I remember coach Wiss made a comment in the state tournament my freshman year and he said I wasn’t a freshman anymore. That was big for me to hear, to know I know I can do it, and it was big to hear other people believe in me too.”

There’s a big jump from middle school to high school basketball much less freshman to varsity competition but Wolf had been preparing for that moment long before she got to high school.

Wolf began playing for the Dayton Lady Hoopstars, an AAU program, in fourth grade and has played with the program every summer since.

This meant traveling around the country playing the best of the best. Wolf said they’ve played a year or two up at most tournaments they’ve gone to since she’s been playing which helped with the transition to high school ball and being used to playing older players.

“I instantly loved it,” said Wolf of entering into a new realm of competition at a younger age. “It’s a long season in the summer you miss a lot of things back home but when you’re with good people and going to cool places it makes it so much more fun.”

One of the things Wolf values about herself is that she’s passionate and committed to being the best she can be in whatever she does. Once she saw her talent after getting involved with AAU she said she put her mind to be the best basketball player she could be.

Logan Allen has been with the Lady Hoopstars for 16 years, known Wolf since fourth grade and has been her coach since seventh grade and noticed Wolf early on.

“You could see she loved the game,” said Allen. “She enjoyed playing, she loved training, getting better every day, those types of things. Their fourth-grade team was a good team with talented kids, even amongst the best at that age, she stood out. Not necessarily because she was dominant by any means, but her passion for the game, her true joy for the game and getting better.”

Allen told The Community Post that her starting he freshman year as a point was probably the least shocking thing he’s seen her do.

“She’s kind of always been ready for that,” said Allen. “She does whatever the team needs. With (Courtney) Prenger, Demaris and some of the other extremely talented girls, she was asked to be more of a facilitator. Everyone got the ball; she was great for that. This year, with high school, it was more of, she needs to score a little bit more.”

Leadership On the court

Wolf has become that go to scorer that the Lady Wildcats need, as one of two players to average double digits in scoring on the team.

Wiss told The Community Post she’s taken the next step on the court by extending her range, adding the mid-range jumper, adding more moves to her post-up game and getting to the rim and making the right pass when collapsed upon.

Allen said she’s taken her biggest leaps over the last 15 months or so in making her an elite player. “Right now, she’s college ready. She was ready in the summer just based off her physical abilities,” said Allen. “She’s always in control. She’s never rushed. She knows physically she can keep up with how strong her mental game is. She’s one of, if not the, highest basketball IQ’s I’ve been around. I’ve been around a lot of really good kids and point guards specifically, that play at a D1 level. She ranks amongst the top, if not the top, IQ’s that I’ve been around.”

This year, however, Wolf has needed to become more of a vocal leader with seven senior voices gone.

“Us three seniors haven’t had that much experience on the court,” said senior guard, and cousin, Averi Wolf. “Ivy has really been that fourth senior.”

“Losing those good seven seniors that we had, its different not having them here,” added Hoying. “She’s helped fill that big role.”

Leading by example hasn’t ever been a problem for Wolf, she realized from being in the gym at a young age that hard work is needed to get the things you want.

But stepping into a different type of leadership role this season was something Wolf acknowledged earlier this year after breaking Lauren Shenk’s single game scoring record.

“I’ve always worked hard,” said Wolf, who also surpassed 1,000 career points this season. “Never let anyone outwork me, but as I got older you have to verbalize more stuff. That was a challenge for me.”

This summer, Wolf surrounded herself with others that would help her become a better leader and last semester she took a leadership class taught by football head coach Geron Stokes “I recommend that class for everyone,” said Wolf. “When I was trying to find the leadership role again this year it was big for me. He talked so much about leadership and gratitude and being grateful for the things you have, which is the first step in being a leader. It was really important.”

“Ivy has stepped into that (leadership) role,” said Wiss. “There were times when it was, ‘Ivy this has to be said,’ now were beyond that because Ivy knows it has to be said. It shows how much time she’s put into who she’s become now, it’s tremendous. She’s a special young lady.”