has always known how to find her way to the hoop.
She would get there by slashing, a little shake-and-bake — whatever it takes. At 5-foot-3, the point guard for the Highland (Marengo, Ohio)
girls basketball team has to be innovative in her approach to score around the basket.
"Some of the college coaches, they have told me, ‘You need to work on your shooting outside. You work so hard on your inside game, now let's push it back farther,' " Cecil said.
Cecil took the sound advice and ran with it.
During the offseason between her sophomore and junior years, Cecil hit the gym hard. She put up 300 shots a day three days a week; the other days, she put up as many shots as she could. Cecil worked on her stroke from at least 15 feet out, hitting all five shooting spots along the 3-point arch.
"Over the summer, she worked extremely hard," Highland girls basketball coach Whitney Levering said. "She increased her physical strength to help her be more accurate on the outside area — just being able to read defenses, and she takes what they give her.
"She loves basketball so much and she's put a lot of time and effort into being what she is today. She's definitely earned it."
Cecil, who was named all-district honorable mention as a sophomore, is starting to perfect her craft. Her inside-outside presence has made her more of a deadly all-around player.
"Now, the defenders have to come out to me and contest my shot, so it gives me a lot more openings in the lane," said Cecil, who has started since the end of her freshman season.
After averaging 9.6 points per game as a sophomore, Cecil has bumped up her scoring to 14.9 points a night in the first three games of her junior campaign. Against Centerburg on Dec. 1, Cecil scored 15 points; she was 5-for-10 from the field, including 3-of-5 on 3-pointers.
Cecil is her team's primary scorer this year after being one of a number of options in her two previous seasons. The 16-year-old is a more confident player because now the offense, for the most part, revolves around her.
"It's really different because now my teammates, they look up to me," Cecil said. "They turn to me if we're in a rough spot."
Even though she's bolstered her outside game, Cecil hasn't stopped driving the lane for some easy hoops. She doesn't let her small stature hamper her ability inside.
Whitney said her point guard is good at getting away from contact and weaseling in between defenders to get shots off.
"I love scoring on the tall girls, it's fun," Cecil said. "I keep the ball so low because I'm so much closer to the ground that they're trying to bend over to touch the ball and then I just go right around them."
Cecil considers herself a true pass-first point guard. She's averaging 2.8 assists early on this season to go along with 2.4 rebounds and 1.9 steals.
"I think what makes me a good point guard is I see the floor," Cecil said. "I'm always looking to push the ball and I'm always trying to include my teammates into the game."
Getting her teammates involved in a game also means Cecil has to lead by example. She's certainly a two-year captain for a reason.
"She's one of the vocal leaders, so she already had that leadership leading by example," Levering said. "Now, she's added that vocal part of it."
Cecil used to compete on her high school's cross country and track teams, but the last two years she's been concentrating year-round on basketball. She's planning to play club basketball — last year she played for Ohio Sports Plus — when the high school season wraps up.
It is Cecil's dream to play collegiate level. She's heard from some local college coaches and believes she fits in the NCAA Division II or NAIA level programs.
"I definitely think she can go D-II if she can stay consistent on her outside shot and her 3s," Levering said. "But if she's going to continue to drive, she's going to have to be a little bit stronger and being able to stay away from the really tall players."
Cecil has looked at Cedarville University in Ohio, among other schools, but she hasn't made a final determination. One big deciding factor in where she will attend college is the academic programs offered by a school. Cecil's a phenomenal student, receiving straight A's throughout high school to maintain a 4.0 grade point average.
"I always strive to get that best score on all my tests," Cecil said. "Academics definitely ranks higher in my books than even basketball."
Cecil has thought about pursuing a career in medicine, possibly as a pediatrician.
"I've always loved helping out kids with little injuries and sickness," Cecil said. "I feel like that would be a good fit for me."
She has been setting herself up for college by taking an aggressive high school course load. This semester, six of Cecil's seven classes are honors or Advanced Placement.
Cecil, who plays clarinet in the school band, is the president of the Spanish Club and also takes part in Academic Challenge Club and Math Club.
Cecil is extremely active in the Ohio Scholars' Association where she has to log a minimum of 30 hours of volunteer time. With the holiday season in full swing, Cecil has been regularly volunteering at a local nursing home. She's baked cookies, designed ornaments and cards and handing them out to the residents. Cecil also enjoys sitting down with the elder community members and talking.
"It makes me feel great because it feels like I'm making an impact in my community, making a difference," said Cecil, who is a coach for her little sister's basketball team.
Cecil does quite a bit of volunteering through her church, St. Vincent De Paul Catholic Church in Mount Vernon, Ohio. She helps with Vacation Bible School during the summer and teaches Sunday school to second graders every week.
"They're so innocent and you're just trying to teach them about something that you have a really good understanding about and they're just trying grasp it," Cecil said. "It's really great when they're actually understanding it."
Levering loves having such devoted, community-driven players on her team. Cecil goes above and beyond everything she does.
"I think it's very important to be well-rounded, and I think she's understood that," Levering said. "She's taking her future serious and she knows that basketball isn't always there forever. She's also going to have to have other things as well and, overall, she just wants to be success in life. So far, she has the drive and the endurance to do so."
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