YELLOW SPRINGS — After a recent basketball practice, Amani Wagner had one question for her Yellow Springs teammates.
But it had nothing to do with what was happening on the court.
“Who am I taking home?” she queried.
About half a dozen girls confirmed and minutes later they all piled into a minivan and drove off into town.
That’s an assist that won’t be found in the scorebook or seen on the game film. But the little snippet is emblematic of what the 5-foot-8 senior means to the Bulldogs program.
Not only is she the team’s leading scorer at 11.1 points a game and the leading rebounder at 11.4 per game (the only player in the conference averaging a double-double), she’s No. 1 in intangibles — the things that can’t be tracked with a number.
Like making sure teammates have a way to get to and from practice.
“It’s a long haul,” Wagner said of being a part-time chauffeur. “But you do what you can to get the work in. I can’t only work hard here. I have to continue to do it outside the court.”
Because of that attitude Yellow Springs (3-7 overall, 2-2 Metro Buckeye Conference) has a reserve team for the first time. Wagner — who grew up in a basketball family which includes brother Ahmad, who starred at Wayne and is now an Iowa Hawkeye — went around and convinced a bunch of girls to play.
“I’ve always been kind of the recruiter on the team,” she said. “Basketball is so fun and I knew they were going to love it.”
The program has nine freshmen and can have productive practices, mostly thanks to Wagner.
“This has helped our team out hugely this year,” said former teammate Morgan Minnich, who helps her father, head coach Tim Minnich, at practices. “Without her offering to drive about four of the girls we could not have a full practice or develop the skills of those girls to help the team. Without her I doubt if we’d have enough to have a JV team. She will help anyone at anytime.”
That attitude completes what has been a total transformation for Wagner, who averaged just 3.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last season as an understudy to Morgan Minnich and all-everything Elizabeth Smith.
“For her it was all about confidence,” Tim Minnich said. “Just some extra time in the gym. She understands rebounding and position. She took it upon herself to come to every workout. She understands the game now.”
Wagner figured it out pretty quickly. In the season loss to Springfield she corralled 10 rebounds. Two games later in a win over West Carrollton, she scored 21 points to go with 16 rebounds, and a week later in a loss to Ansonia, she had 23 points and a whopping 19 rebounds.
Wagner has failed to record at least 10 rebounds just twice while she has hit double-digits in scoring in half of her games after doing it once last season.
“I wanted to leave it all on the court this year,” Wagner said. “I just decided to really play this year. I feel like a lot of the pressure is on all the seniors. I try to just be everything the team needs me to be.”
That includes being more aggressive during games.
“Last year she wouldn’t dribble or shoot without being told and now she is dribbling and breaking a press,” Morgan Minnich said. “She’s also become more of a leader and taking initiative.”
Wagner credited Tim Minnich — who incorporated his Beavercreek Stars regimen into Yellow Springs practices and also got Wagner involved with some good AAU action — with a big assist.
“Getting all that extra knowledge from other players is great,” Wagner said, adding that assistant coach Nick Minnich has been integral in teaching all the players how to finish plays better. “I’m really thankful for all my coaches.”
The feeling is mutual.
“Seeing Amani come as far as she has, if we don’t win six or seven games this year, it’s all worth it,” Tim Minnich said. “I’ve never seen any improvement that much at this age group. Everything she gets, she earned. A lot of things she’s done behind the scenes.”
And behind the wheel.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.