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Ellsworth basketball: Swanson enjoying perks of Team Wisconsin

Summer basketball can lead to great opportunities.

For instance, when Ellsworth guard Emma Swanson, who will be a junior this fall, walked onto a court with the Class of 2018 Team Wisconsin in Louisville during a tournament the week of July 4, sitting in the coach’s gallery was Geno Auriemma. In this calendar year alone Swanson has had the opportunity to rub elbows with basketball star Rachel Banham, but to play in front of Auriemma, the Connecticut women’s basketball coach who has won 11 national titles, was a highlight of her summer.

So, was there any extra pressure playing in front of a legendary coach?

“You have to dial in. It’s tough,” Swanson said. “There were 66 courts in one building and he’s at your court. You have to just go play ball and play for your teammates.

“That was a giant tournament with over 600 teams and he was watching our game. You just have to go play ball even though he’s sitting there.”

Pressures like that and the high level of talent that Swanson has competed with all summer have helped her improve her game.

“My basketball IQ has gone up a tremendous amount,” Swanson said. “You’re playing with girls that have won state tournaments and against D1 recruits that are going to Big Ten schools and SEC schools. Playing against those teams is a whole different ball game. It’s a lot faster pace and you have to keep up.”

She said most of the time off the basketball court is spent discussing basketball, which helps her development even more.

“Emma truly loves playing basketball to a level that not many people do,” Ellsworth girls basketball coach Jason Janke said. “She is the kind of player that gets a great deal out of playing AAU basketball.”

Swanson’s role with Team Wisconsin is vastly different from her role with the Panthers. But playing with a higher level of competition will continue to cultivate her leadership abilities, according to Janke.

“She’s becoming a very strong leader for the Panthers, not just in the basketball program but as a true student-athlete,” Janke said. “She is a great role model for our young girls in Ellsworth.”

On top of playing AAU and summer workouts, Swanson also balances playing with the Panthers throughout the summer.

“You work hard to get both places and play for both as much as you can. (My teammates) haven’t said a whole lot, but I think they understand that I’m putting in a lot of time which will make us a better team as a whole.”