Andrea Mauger strives for more basketball success
By Kyle LoJacono
Winning is never too far from Andrea Mauger.
She helped Wesley Chapel make the regional finals as a freshman in 2010. She transferred to Academy at the Lakes the following season, where she was the leader of squads that won district championships during her sophomore and junior seasons.
The Wildcats (16-1) took another step last year, when they won the first regional championship in academy history for any sport.
Andrea has accomplished a lot during her time in high school, but her greatest challenge is in front of her this season.
The academy graduated five seniors from that regional championship and final four squad, leaving the senior forward as the lone returning starter.
To prepare for the rigors of her senior season, Andrea said she played basketball at a much more intense level. She even hit the hard court every day during July because of tournaments and camps.
“I just wanted to absorb everything,” Andrea said. “I went to point guard college and prepared myself to potentially run the point or do anything because we didn’t know who was coming in.”
The Wildcats found four new starters in spots that allowed Andrea to stay at forward, but coach Karim Nohra said her willingness to play at any position shows the kind of leader she is.
“I told her at the end of last year I have no idea who we’re going to have,” Nohra said. “She actually said to me she’d play any spot. She’s been like that since the first day I started coaching her.”
Andrea picked up the game in third grade. She was a competitive dancer and cheerleader at the time, but gave up those activities in sixth grade to focus on basketball.
“My parents threw me in every activity, and eventually I had to make a choice,” Andrea said. “I just loved basketball.”
Her younger brother Mikey, a sophomore forward at the academy, also has a passion for the basketball, making the family ties to the hard court strong.
“We’re really close-knit,” Mikey said. “After my games she’ll talk to me about how I played and what she saw. I’ll give her some pointers, and she’ll give me some pointers. We’ll go out and shoot when we’re stressed.”
Andrea made her first AAU team while in sixth grade in New Hampshire, but was cut during tryouts for her middle school team a few weeks later.
It was the only time Andrea hasn’t made a team she went out for, and it taught her a lesson.
“It showed me that everyone isn’t going to view you the same way,” Andrea said. “The AAU coaches saw potential in me, and the other didn’t. I’m thankful for those two coaches (Lori Putnam and Dave Connors) because they taught me the basics. The other thing it taught me is you might miss one opportunity, but another will come. You just have to keep pushing if you want something.”
Her family moved to Pasco County for her seventh-grade year at John Long, which is where Nohra first saw her play.
“I saw her as a person who could be a thousand-point scorer,” Nohra said. “I saw that she was a real gym rat, and you need those gym rats on your team.”
His first reaction was proven right when Andrea went to Wesley Chapel, where Nohra was coaching.
Andrea said her first practice with the vociferous and demonstrative Nohra was something she’ll never forget.
“The first practice I went to I was very intimidated,” Andrea said. “He was very in your face.”
She was also a bit taken aback by the other girls’ talent.
“I wasn’t used to being around players that good,” Andrea said. “It showed me that I had to work a lot to get my game to that level. Just used them all as role models, like Hannah Noble and Shantel Houston. Those were my two main role models, and they’re still there for me today.”
She took what she learned when she transferred to the academy as a sophomore. Nohra had just been named the Wildcats coach, and he leaned on Andrea’s experience with his system of high-tempo offense and trapping defense.
“When I transferred here I was put in more of a leadership role,” Andrea said. “Being a part of his system already for a year made me kind of like the new Hannah Noble and Shantel Houston. People had to look up to me, and it put, I don’t want to say pressure, but it did force me to be better. I had to take the lead scorer role and leader on the court, where at Wesley Chapel I was just the supporter.”
The academy went 19-5 during Andrea’s first season a year after going 0-15 the season before. Nohra said her leadership was a big part of the turnaround.
“She’s the teacher on the court for us, and that’s huge for us in my system,” Nohra said. “She’ll direct traffic during the games and talk with the players, especially the freshmen, about what they need to do and where they need to go.”
The Wildcats finished 23-6 on the way to the Class 2A final four last year. Andrea averaged 15.6 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists as a junior and was named The Laker/Lutz News Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Senior point guard Timecia Cohen has been on teams with Andrea the last three years, including the previous two at the academy, and said she is the “glue” that keeps them together.
“We’ve bumped heads before, but we honestly know each other,” Cohen said. “She knows what I’m going to do next, and I know what she’s going to do. She’s a great player and she’s a role model for me.”
Andrea made more school history last spring when she became the first track and field athlete from the academy to make the state meet. She competed in the 1A final in the shot put, where she finished 14th with a toss of 31 feet, 8.5 inches after claiming a district title.
“Track is a lot of fun, but basketball is what I love,” Andrea said.
Andrea is within striking distance of a major milestone.
She has 1,386 career points for her career and is averaging 18.5 per game this season, meaning she has a legitimate chance to become the first in academy basketball history to reach 1,500, but she isn’t worried about career milestones.
For Andrea, it’s all about making it back to the final four.
“In my mind, we are going to get there again,” Andrea said. “If I have to take us there I will. If Timecia (Cohen) and Tatiana (Manuel) have to do it, we will. At this point, whatever I have to do to get there I will do. Defeat is not in my mind right now at all.”
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