FAIRMONT — She’s seen extravagant skyscrapers and periodically sat down for some fine dining, but the similarities of the summer excursions of rising sophomore Marley Washenitz and her peers don’t extend much further than that.
Instead of tanning by the pool, she’s shooting from the elbow. Instead of lounging in front of the ocean, she’s catching her breath on the bench.
“Most girls, you see them through social media and they’re at the beach or hanging with their friends,” she said. “I get to hang out with my friend maybe once a month. But that’s the path I chose and I love it.”
Washenitz is in the midst of a month-long road trip with her AAU basketball team, the West Virginia Thunder 2022, that will encompass nearly the entire month of July. Washenitz estimates she’ll have been home in Fairmont just eight days in July.
The other 20-plus days will be broken into night stays in Indianapolis and Atlanta, where her team will play in the Hoosier Heat and national championship tournaments as part of the girls’ 15U Under Armour circuit.
The Thunder, which has a roster of eight players from the 2022 graduating class, won the Gold Bracket championship in the Hoosier Heat in Indiana and were undefeated until their final game against a team out of Alabama, Washenitz said. They’ll be the No. 1-ranked team and top seed in their age group for the UA National Championship tournament in Atlanta next week.
Washenitz, who was named third-team all-state and won the Class AA state championship game MVP as a freshman at Fairmont Senior last season, has been the fulcrum behind the Thunder’s July run. Washenitz, who dispensed a stuffed bag on the high school level last season with the Lady Polar Bears has zeroed in on improving her jumper with the Thunder in addition to honing her ball handling and various scoring moves.
“I definitely feel like I’ve made progress on my jumpshots because I’m more confident taking them now,” said Washenitz, who’s highlighted her midrange game as her utmost point of potential improvement.
The shooting touch, the gritty drives, the finesse step-through finishes, and, of course, Washenitz’s rabid defense — likely the most overlooked element of her game — is beginning to prop up Washenitz on the recruiting scene. In the past week, Washenitz has picked up official scholarship offers from West Virginia University and Virginia Tech to go with a prior Division-I offer from Arkansas State.
“I started talking with WVU earlier; I went on a couple of unofficial visits since they’re only like 15 minutes away,” Washenitz said. “Then I talked on the phone with Virginia Tech assistant coach Shawn Poppie a few times before finally talking to Coach (Kenny) Brooks which is when he offered me.”
More D-I offers — including ones without local ties (Arkansas State head coach Matt Daniel was named the school’s head coach on March 29 after five seasons as the head coach at Marshall) — seem imminent to come Washenitz’s way before the summer is out, but NCAA rules impose a lot of gymnastics in terms of her recruitment, she said. Per the NCAA’s rules, college programs are forbidden from contacting Washenitz with the exception of mailed letters until she is at least a junior, and any other communication between program and player has to come from Washenitz’s end.
“(College programs) can contact one of my coaches and my coaches tell me to call them. That’s normally the way it works,” she said. “It’s crazy how strict it is.”
The more cities Washenitz and the Thunder play in, however, the more exposure she gets, prompting bowled-over college coaches to jump through that series of hoops.
“There are like 100-200 college coaches at each tournament I go to,” Washenitz said, “so being able to play as many games I can in those tournaments and get all the exposure that I need and want, it’s really valuable.”
Those extra games are a treasure for Washenitz’s recruiting outlook, but they’re an additional tax for her body’s health. Mental and physical burnout has long been an upstanding criticism of the AAU landscape, which asks players to typically play at least two games a day in addition to the travel across the country. Washenitz and the Thunder played 11 games in five days at the Hoosier Heat in Indiana, and she said she’s maxed out at 3-4 games day over the course of playing AAU in the spring and summer.
“My energy is pretty crazy, surprisingly, with how much I do a day. I’ve never really felt worn down,” said Washenitz, who expressed her gratitude to her parents, Frank and Terri Washenitz, who also bear plenty of the burden of her ruthless schedule.
Washenitz will try to squeeze in an off day when she’s home in Fairmont, she said, but even then she’ll spend mornings weight training and participate in skill work sessions.
It’s a tough schedule for a high school sophomore, but for Washenitz, it’s as sweet as summer can get.