GIRLS PLAYER OF THE WEEK — See why freshman Ava Wiltz is a young star on the rise

Published 12:19 am Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Ava Wiltz loves playing basketball. She also loves playing volleyball, and softball, and running track and cross country. She loves sports in general.

“If I were to start my seventh grade year and talk to you about what was my favorite sport, I would probably say basketball,” Wiltz said. “But now? I don’t know. It’s really hard to decide between all of my sports. I’m really passionate about all of them. I can’t really rate all of them together.”

Wiltz is a freshman at Nederland High School, maintaining good grades with participation in — and even excellence in — all the sports she hopes to play throughout her high school career.

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She just tried out for the softball team Saturday and is waiting to see what team she’ll be placed in, but right now she’s in the thick of District 21-5A varsity basketball play, leading the Bulldogs in scoring on Friday against Barbers Hill. Though the Bulldogs lost to the current first place district team 64-23, The Port Arthur News Girl Player of the Week managed to score eight points against a squad that, like others, were likely older than her.

“Being in middle school you’re just going against people your grade level, and jumping up to high school, me being 14, I’m going up against 17- and 18-year-olds and it just really offers you an opportunity to increase your IQ and your ability to play as a player,” Wiltz said.

“I don’t think it changes the way I play. I always fight to the very end no matter what the score is. To me basketball is basketball, no matter what level you play on.”

Coach Jody Walker recognized Wiltz’ ability after the season began when she played a few games for the junior varsity team, noticing Wiltz already had a firm grasp of the game.

“For basketball, it was more about her playmaking, her knowledge of the game, and I really don’t like to put an age limit on things, especially when you have a kid that really understands the game and knows how to play, is coachable, does things the right way, makes everybody around her better,” Walker said.

“I was kind of hesitant because I didn’t want to throw her into that proverbial fire, but once we got into practice it was just a no-brainer. I would have been doing myself and my kids an injustice playing her on a lower level. She was ready.”

Wiltz brings credit for her performance back to her teammates and the support they provide.

“I really think it’s not just me scoring that many points — that’s not my goal throughout the game,” she said. “That just happens. I really think a lot of the point-wise stuff for me really pans out because of my teammates. They provide all the help on the court for me, and win or lose it’s a team game. Even though I score however many points a game, to me it doesn’t’ matter. It just matters to me to be a team player and a selfless player.”

“She’s stepped right in, gotten knocked down and gotten right back up,” Walker said. Now it’s about knowing how to create shots and move without the ball, playing against older girls that are more physical, trying to do things within the game to make it more challenging for her. So she’s understanding about learning how to use her teammates more, and it’s a learning process.”

The Bulldogs travel to Vidor for a 7 p.m. game today and on Friday face archrivals Port Neches-Groves in Port Neches at 7 p.m.