NEGR - Northeast Girls Recruiting

Friday Feature: Grace Heeps

To kick off the Fall, we are continuing our Friday Feature’s. These Friday Features showcase some of the Class of 2019 committed players. Our goal with these is to give a glimpse into committed senior’s basketball journeys and their thinking throughout the college recruiting process to share with other aspiring college basketball players.
 
In this week’s Friday Feature, we interviewed Grace Heeps. She gave some great insight into her college search along with her unique experience with the USA Basketball Trials this summer. We also got a chance to hear from her longtime NY Havoc AAU Coach, Terrance Florence, as well as her high school coach at Northfield Mount Hermon, Grace Rehnquist.
 
Enjoy this week’s Friday Feature with UMASS Amherst commit, Grace Heeps!
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Grace Heeps, Class of 2019, 5’11, Pos: PG, Northfield Mount Hermon/NY Havoc – COMMITTED TO: UMASS AMHERST
 
When did you first start playing basketball?
I first started playing basketball at the age of 5 at basketball clinics at the local YMCA and played in my first organized league when I was in 3rd grade.
 
What was your overall recruiting process like and what were some of the schools that showed interest in you?
My recruiting process started when I was in 8th grade playing up at the 10th grade level for AAU and I attended a few Division I Elite Camps. I got my first offer from Lafayette College after the April live period in my freshman year and after that many more schools started reaching out. I had just over 20 division 1 offers that included Seton Hall, Boston College, Saint Joseph’s University, Northeastern, Quinnipiac, Marist, Saint Bonaventure, Old Dominion, U Albany, Fordham, LaSalle, Liberty University, University of Vermont, Lafayette College, Manhattan, Monmouth, Fairfield, Columbia, Brown, and University at Buffalo.
 
Did your family, friends, etc. play a role in your decision and how so?
One of the most important factors that came into play for me when I was choosing a school, I knew I wanted to be in a conference where my friends and family could see me play.
 
Tell us a little bit about your high school and AAU experience and how both played a role in your decision.
Last year was my first year attending the prep school Northfield Mount Hermon in western Massachusetts and I really fell in love with the area and the distance from my home (a little under 2 hours) because it’s so easy to get home in a weekend if I needed or wanted, but also not too close. My AAU experience for playing with New York Havoc helped me a lot with choosing UMass Amherst because my coach Terrance Florence, allowed me to get college exposure in the live events and showcases and as a result of this, I got to visit so many different campuses and see how different programs had their way of functioning and I really got a feel of what I was looking for in a university and that’s I how I knew as soon as I stepped onto campus at UMass Amherst that it was the spot for me.
 
In the end, why did you choose UMASS Amherst?
I gave a few reasons in the previous questions, but overall the reason why I chose UMass Amherst was because I loved the campus, the distance from home was perfect (1 1/2 hours), I really loved Coach Verdi’s coaching style and I thought the Atlantic Ten was a great mid-major conference.
 
What are you most looking forward to at UMASS Amherst?
I am really looking forward to a large school environment with big time athletics programs.
 
Tell us a little bit about your experience with the USA Basketball Trials earlier this summer.
First of all, I was very grateful to have the opportunity to try out for the USA National Team. The experience was like no other. Going into the trials I was definitely timid and even a bit scared about the level of competition I was going up against. I had seen a lot of the girls play in live events and heard that they were ranked near the top of their class and that was very intimidating. However, once I stepped on the court, we were all the same. I felt like I belonged, and I spent a lot of time and became close with a bunch of the girls there and without this experience I probably wouldn’t have ever met them. I learned a lot of new drills from the variety of coaches and evaluators helping out and it was an amazing overall experience.
 
What is your favorite memory playing basketball growing up?
My favorite memory of playing basketball growing up was always playing one-on-one against my dad in the driveway and the feeling after I beat him was like no other.
 
Any advice for players who are looking to play at the next level? (About the recruiting process, on and off the court, etc.)
My largest piece of advice would probably be to trust the process because everyone’s recruiting process is different and it doesn’t matter how many offers you get or how old you are when you get them because at the end of the day your goal is to find a school that is right for you.
 
How will your high school team be this upcoming season? What are your goals entering your final season?
My high school team this year at NMH is looking to be pretty dominant in the NEPSAC conference returning three starters from last year and gaining a few versatile and skilled players. My goals for my final season would be to make sure I exemplify leadership on and off the court as a captain this year, especially to the new additions to our team to help them not only become acclimated to the school, but to feeling welcome and adjust to the environment of our team.
 
What are you most excited for in your senior year?
In my senior year, I am looking forward to seeing how our team comes together because I think that the group that NMH has this year has the potential to be very special.
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Check out what NY Havoc Head Coach, Terrance Florence, had to say about coaching Grace!
 
When did you first see Grace play?
I first met Grace when she was in sixth grade. Mom brought her to begin working out with me. Her first workout was an individual session. At the time I mostly worked with boys basketball while coaching Albany City Rocks EYBL. Workout went well with a couple breakdowns of tears. She finished the workout with tears in her eyes. When Becky returned to the gym at the end of the workout, Grace asked her mom if she could come back to workout out again tomorrow. That’s when I knew Grace would be special! She enjoyed the process and wanted to put the work in!
 
What have you enjoyed most about coaching Grace?
I've enjoyed coaching a leader with tremendous work ethic. I never had to tell her anything twice. These past two years, she called plays and made on court adjustments on the fly. Many times this year, Grace would interrupt me and finish my sentence. She is the most coachable player I have ever worked with. It’s been an absolute pleasure to teach her the game!!!
 
Tell me a little bit about Grace as a person off the court?
A complete ray of sunshine!!! Outgoing, polite, excellent communicator and a heart of gold. She inspires me to be better every day!
 
What are you most excited about seeing Grace do at the next level?
I am most excited to see Grace help take UMASS to the next level. UMASS is amazing and the coaching staff have built a contender. I believe Grace will help them get to that next level. The first day she steps on campus, she will inspire, motivate and lead her teammates to be better – to work harder!
 
Any other thoughts?
Grace inspires and leads the next generation of ball players from our program and region. Younger players aim to have the work ethic, communication and competitiveness that they have seen over the years. Grace may not realize it, but she inspires and is the example to hundreds of young ladies for the Albany area. Grace has been an absolute pleasure to work with over the years!!!
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Now hear from Northfield Mount Hermon Head Coach, Grace Rehnquist and her thoughts on Grace!
 
Where did you first see Grace play?
I first saw Grace play in a game her freshman year. I was actually there evaluating a player off the opposing team, but was really struck by Grace’s court presence. One of the first plays of the game she threw a pass from the volleyball line to a teammate cutting across the baseline. I immediately grabbed my roster, assuming Grace was a senior and was blown away to realize she was a freshman. I texted her AAU coach and the rest is history. 
 
What have you enjoyed most about coaching Grace?
I love Grace’s passion for the game. You see it in every workout, drill, game, or even team huddle. She is always excited to be on the court and workout with her teammates. Grace thinks the game at a different level, and it’s been amazing seeing her ability to elevate her teammates through her own ability.
 
Tell me a little bit about Grace as a person off the court?
Grace off the court isn’t much different than who you see on the court. She is high energy, engaging, and (usually) always smiling. It’s been amazing to see her grow and mature as a student, athlete, and person during her time at NMH. 
 
What are you most excited about seeing Grace do at the next level?
Grace has a lot of makings of a college athlete right now. Her work ethic and drive are top notch. Her decision making on and off the court are close to being that of a collegiate athlete, so what I am most excited for is to see her round out those attributes and continue to focus forward on how she can excel and contribute. She is a grinder and wants to be challenged and pushed everyday - I am excited to see her get that attention at a different level. It’s just an added bonus that she will be down the street! 
 
Any other thoughts?
I think it’s great to have someone of Grace’s caliber heading to UMass. I am excited to see the program that Coach Verdi and his staff are building, and I know Grace will be a vital part to their success, whether it’s on the court, in the locker room, or as a student in that community.