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Published: January 27, 2009 12:31 am   

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Duda digs deep for GI

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

To call Amber Duda a hard worker would be an understatement. Just ask her coach and second mom Jenepher Banker.

“From the time I started coaching her — around the age of 10 — to now, I couldn’t even tell you one instance of any practice or game where she didn’t give 110 percent,” Banker said of the Grand Island senior.

Duda just doesn’t know any other way to play the game.

“I always go full speed,” she said. “If you give it your all, all the time, then you’ll never be disappointed.”

But when Duda tore both her ACL and meniscus during an AAU game last May disappointment was only natural. Within weeks, though, Duda was back with her teammates sitting next to Banker on the bench during summer league action.

“I didn’t want to be completely absent,” Duda explained. “I wanted to be there to help the girls if they ever needed anything. I kind of helped coach with Banker, too.”

“It killed her not being able to play, but she was always there supporting her teammates,” Banker added.

By the time soccer season rolled around, Duda mustered up enough strength to play on Senior Day, and by Nov. 1, she was ready to hit the hardwood around 85 percent.

“I was still kind of freaked out at first, but when we got to the games I started to forget about everything that had happened,” Duda said.

At that point she was reinserted into the Vikings’ starting backcourt alongside close friend Kallie Banker. The duo share ballhandling responsibilities, although Banker has taken over the bulk of those duties recently to combat double teams and gimmick defenses.

Taking the ball out of Duda’s hand hasn’t slowed her leadership skills one bit, though.

“Since she was 10, she’s always brought the level of play of our kids up no matter what role she played on the court,” Banker said. “She’s such a great leader and a great person that the girls want to win for her. They want her to go out as a winner.”

And Duda would certainly be just fine with that.

“If we keep playing defense, get some steals and convert our fast breaks — and stay together — we can win a lot of games,” she said.

Contact reporter Nate Beutel at 282-2311, ext. 2262.


• SCHOOL: Grand Island

• SPORT: Girls basketball

• GRADE: Senior


• STORY: Four-year player is a leader the Vikings can’t live without

• COACH’S QUOTE: “They want her to go out as a winner.”

— Jenepher Banker