Maggie Eberhardt: From basketball to boot camp
THOMASTON – Maggie Eberhardt has always had big-time game. Put a basketball or a javelin in her hands and good things seemingly always happened. Now it is time to change the game. For a while anyway.
The former Thomaston High basketball All-Stater and Class S and Berkshire League javelin champion is putting the basketball away for this season and taking a one-year leave from Western Connecticut State University women’s basketball team to enter the National Guard.
Eberhardt, 20, will leave for Fort Jackson, South Carolina Monday (Nov. 17) to begin a six-year commitment.
So why does a rising college player with basketball in her blood decide to put her game on hold after one year of college? How about the chance to do one thing she’s always wanted to do and to continue what she loves to do and has been darn good at.
“I’ve always thought about (joining the service), it’s been in the back of my head,” said Eberhardt. “But all I thought about in high school was basketball. My whole family has been involved in the Navy. My dad’s brother, mom’s dad and some of the nephews were in.”
So there are some strong military blood lines here. But there is a practical angle too.
“The National Guard will pay 100 percent of my tuition up to grad school,” added Eberhardt. ‘I always thought about joining and once I found out about that I said get on it.”
Eberhardt will spend three months at Fort Jackson and then four months at Fort Rucker in Alabama. The rest of her six-year commitment she will train one weekend a month and two weeks during the summer. She also could be called up for full-time duty depending on circumstances for the last two years.
And basketball still figures in the story. Eberhardt will return to the WCSU team next season to resume her hoop career, a life decision that is more than fine with Western coach Kim Rybczyk.
“I kind of wish I had done this before but I wanted to play basketball,” said Eberhardt. “I told the coach and she said okay.”
The 5-foot-3 Eberhardt, who is already in fabulous shape, has already been training weekends and loves it.
“I’ve learned a lot about respect and discipline and I can see myself doing it a long time,” said Eberhardt.
And she sees the bigger picture.
“My family has always loved sports but school comes first,” Eberhardt said. “Education will carry me through life not basketball.”
On by the way a little side note here, that sporting family? Older sister Lizzie just won the Northeast Conference Women’s Cross Country Championship for Central Connecticut and younger sister Charlotte is a member of Thomaston High’s Class S and Berkshire League champion girls basketball team.
Eberhardt ran in the Diane Burr Memorial race in Thomaston Sunday and looked anything but nervous about her new life-changing endeavor. But she admits, the military offers some challenges other than physical and life-style.
Possible overseas service and the whole gun thing, well, you do what you have to do.
“I think about (getting called up) and it would be quite an experience,” she said. “But I’ve pushed it to the back of my head. (Shooting a gun) will be my biggest challenge. I don’t think I’ll shoot when I get out and I don’t want to own a gun.”
And always, basketball awaits. Eberhard scored 1,103 points during her brilliant high school career at Thomaston, a span that included the school’s first Class S championship berth since 1993 in 2013 along with three BL titles and two tournament titles.
She was recruited by and attended Post University last fall before transferring to WCSU where she teamed up with former teammates Sciarra and Brittany Brandt and former Wamogo opponent Kerri Stolle.
Eberhard made an immediate impact and played almost 20 minutes a game averaging 6.2 points. She sees some short term rust and long term benefits to go with her National Guard commitment.
“I’ve been playing with the (Thomaston Trotters) and am already having trouble with my ballhandling,” she said. “But, once I get out and start playing again I think I’ll be strong and faster.”
In the meantime it is on to bigger and more important things. Don’t expect Eberhardt to be any less big-time than she has been on the basketball court. She will serve well, she always has. We wish her luck and thank-you for serving.