Timeout well spent for Courtney Ekmark
Armed with a PowerPoint presentation and acting very much like a future business leader, Courtney Ekmark attended a major meeting last summer -- with her parents.
On display was the 6-foot guard's "senior bucket list," and her objective was to convince her parents, Curtis and Meg, to let her be home-schooled for 12th grade so she could pursue those clearly defined goals.
Ekmark, a Connecticut recruit and the No. 31 prospect in the espnW HoopGurlz Top 100 for the 2014 class, pointed out that Tim Tebow and other successful athletes, many of them in tennis, have been home-schooled.
She also underscored her five priorities: faith, family, education, basketball and "other."
As if there was any doubt for a student who was smart enough to rank No. 1 in her St. Mary's (Phoenix) class academically and competitive enough to accept a scholarship to play basketball at the premier program in the nation, Ekmark won her case. And, so far, everything is going well.
"I'm having a blast," she said of her senior year.
Here's a closer look at that Ekmark Farewell to High School Bucket List:
Faith: One of Ekmark's plans is to show her faith by doing good works, looking to help homeless people. "I'm going to go [to a soup kitchen] with my cousin," Ekmark said. "I did it once before a long time ago. You make the food and feed them."
Family: The close-knit Ekmark family of four, which also includes Andrew, a 6-foot sophomore point guard who starts on the varsity at Phoenix Country Day, has bonded even more of late. The family accompanied Andrew as he took unofficial visits to Ivy League schools such as Harvard this past summer, and a journey to Europe is planned for spring break. Ekmark also plans to attend some of Andrew's games, something she could not do if she were playing for St. Mary's.
Education: Ekmark was just a couple of classes shy of graduating from high school, so returning for a whole year just for that did not make much sense to her. Instead, she is taking classes online and will enter UConn with several college credits.
Basketball: Ekmark, who was the Gatorade player of the year in Arizona as a junior after averaging 19.6 points and 5 rebounds per game, went to the NCAA Final Four last season in New Orleans and sat behind the UConn bench. What she saw up close shocked her. "She told me, 'Dad, that was nothing like high school basketball,'" Curtis Ekmark said. "Her goal is to be ready to play right away at UConn, and she felt working with trainers was the better way to go."
Other: Ekmark wants to take a cooking class so she can learn to make "anything that tastes good." She also is on the "Board of Visitors," a select group of girls who put on fashion shows, charity balls and other social events in Arizona.
Part of the education component of her bucket list was to explore her options in regard to a major. Toward that end, she has met with several of her father's friends to find out about their jobs and to gauge if she would have any interest in that particular career.
For example, she met with a lobbyist in Phoenix, and the experience was another eye-opener.
"Courtney took Advanced Placement U.S. Government classes last year at St. Mary's and got A's the whole year," said Curtis Ekmark, a real estate attorney who gave up coaching St. Mary's after last season so he could direct a Nike boys' club team that includes Andrew.
"But she said she learned more about how politics worked in one meeting with the lobbyist than she did the whole year at St. Mary's."
Ekmark also met with another businessman who started out as a pool guy for a multimillion-dollar company and went on to become its CEO.
"She's getting a lot of real-world experience," Curtis Ekmark said.
She also is making time to travel. Ekmark recently printed out the Harvard and Michigan women's basketball schedules so she could find time to see two of her ex-St. Mary's teammates -- Shilpa Tummala and Danielle Williams -- play this season.
Ekmark visited Tummala this past summer at Harvard while her brother was doing his Ivy League tour. Ekmark also hung out with Williams at Michigan, taking in the Notre Dame football game.
"We went on the field for warm-ups," Ekmark said, "and we sat on the 40-yard line for the game. We were part of a record crowd."
Ekmark, who will be joined in UConn's 2014 class by Gabby Williams of Nevada and Sadie Edwards of Connecticut, also took a trip to UConn for "First Night," where the Huskies' men's and women's basketball teams participated in a practice in front of their student body.
"The place was packed," Ekmark said.
But no matter how many places she visits, Ekmark insists she is taking the time to work out as hard as, if not harder than, last year.
She is training with former Phoenix Suns coach Frank Johnson, who was an NBA guard and first-round pick in the 1980s. Being home-schooled, Ekmark said, has allowed her to train more times a day.
Ekmark also is playing with her brother's club team, which is otherwise all male.
"I've gotten bigger, faster and stronger," she said. "My No. 1 goal is to be ready to play right away at UConn."