When AAU Illinois Hoop Dreams girls basketball coach Paul Collins ends his late-night practices, Marengo guard Marissa Knobloch’s work is just getting started.
“I end practices at 10 [p.m.], and I’m usually still in the gym until 10:30,” Collins said. “I’m there because Marissa won’t leave the gym until she gets X amount of shots up, whatever her routine is. ‘Coach, I’ve got to make 30 shots, Coach, I’ve got to do this, or I’ve got to do that.’ I turn off the lights, and I’m sitting in my car, waiting for Marissa.
“If she doesn’t come to our shooting practice (on Sunday), she has one of the assistants at Marengo open up the gym early so she can go and shoot. That’s throwback stuff, that’s old school.”
Knobloch already has made a name for herself in McHenry County with a devastating 3-point shot. The soon-to-be junior made an Indians record eight 3-pointers – all in the first half – in a nonconference win against Belvidere last season. She finished the game with 37 points, two points off the school record, despite Belvidere using a triangle-and-two defense against her.
Now, Collins said, the 5-foot-7 guard is starting to get recognized at the collegiate level. Knobloch received her first offer from NCAA Division II Illinois-Springfield last week, and she has several D-I coaches watching closely.
With national exposure tournaments in Chicago, Kentucky and Atlanta coming up in July, Collins said he expects the interest to really grow in the coming weeks. She was an All-Star selection in May at the Windy City Classic, one of the biggest Midwest events of the spring.
“I would expect that, having been down this road a few times before, the phone will start ringing off the hook,” Collins said. “It’s already pretty consistent. Once she becomes known on a larger, bigger stage, that’s when it will really take off.”
Knobloch averaged 14.9 points as a sophomore and was second in the area with 86 3s. Over her last 17 games, she averaged 17.6 points and scored 20 points seven times. Her lightning quick release and long range make Knobloch a difficult guard from anywhere. She’ll shoot it from 30 feet in a game without hesitation.
Knobloch said seeing her brother, Illinois Wesleyan transfer Zach Knobloch, have huge success at Marengo – where he set a state record with 167 3s as a senior – served as motivation for her 3-point shot and development.
The two will shoot around on occasion, but Knobloch said the siblings usually end up fighting “because everything is a competition between us.”
The biggest part of Knobloch’s game that has seen the most improvement so far this summer is her defense and the ability to get to the basket, Collins said.
Two years ago, Knobloch suffered a torn ACL, wiping out her freshman season at Marengo and that following summer. The injury happened in her first high school game, which also happened to be her 15th birthday. She tried to talk her way into staying in the game but was unsuccessful.
“I was mad,” Knobloch said. “I was mad that I couldn’t play, and I was mad (Marengo coach Nick) Rode wouldn’t let me finish the game. After that happened, I was just focused on getting back on the court healthy and encouraging my teammates.”
Knobloch rehabbed and was released in seven months. She said she’s still not 100 percent as far as speed and strength, but she’s almost there. The injury, which happened when Knobloch was going up for a layup, made her hesitant to attack the basket because of fear of reinjury.
“I feel like I’m almost there,” Knobloch said. “I feel like I still have a little more confidence to gain back. I realized that I needed to start driving and doing other things; otherwise, I wasn’t going to get any college looks.”
Collins marvels at Knobloch’s long range, but said her ability to attack is setting her apart. That, paired with her 3-point shot, makes for a dangerous combination.
“She drives to the basket, and she drives like a guy almost,” Collins said. “Just super hard to the basket, cuffs the ball and is strong enough to release it at the end. She gets to the basket and has a beautiful pullup where she’ll drive, and the next time she’ll pull up.
“Unless you tag her, how do you stop her from scoring? Because she’s got that quick release. If you’re two feet off of her, she’s open.”
Knobloch realizes that missing a year of high school and travel season might have set her back in the recruiting process, but she’s determined to make up for lost time.
“I’m just going to go out, try and work hard every game and go 100 percent, play good defense and help my teammates and try and win,” Knobloch said. “It’s nerve-racking to think about all the college stuff, but I want to play college basketball, so I pretty much think about it every day.”