Sophia Wiard watched the great Oakridge players as a kid, and now she’s one of them

By Nate Thompson
LocalSportsJournal.com

EGELSTON TOWNSHIP – Being around the Oakridge girls basketball program is all Sophia Wiard knows.

She was a ball girl when her older sister, Keyara, was on the Eagles’ varsity for four years. She distributed water to the players and gathered warm-up tops, and idolized her sister and the other Eagles until she was a freshman.

Now Wiard is the one being idolized.

The Eagles’ 5-foot-8 junior point guard recently added her name to the an illustrious list at the school by recording her 1,000th career point on Feb. 1 in a 61-43 victory against West Michigan Conference rival Shelby.

It was Oakridge’s 75th consecutive conference victory.

Oakridge junior guard Sophia Wiard. Photo/Jason Goorman

The Eagles currently sit at 11-3 overall and have clinched at least a share of a league championship at 9-0.

Wiard joined the likes of recent Oakridge standouts like Hannah Reinhold, Morgan Giddings, and her sister Keyara in the 1,000-career-point club. Reinhold is currently the program’s all-time leading scorer with more than 1,500 points.

“It was something I always strived for,” Sophia Wiard said. “It’s a nice honor to be a part of a group with girls like Hannah, Morgan and Keyara.”

Oakridge Coach Terry DeJonge has worked with them all, and while comparing players is like have to name your favorite child, he’s quick to confirm that Sophia Wiard has surged above the rest.

“She’s definitely the best I’ve ever coached,” DeJonge said. “I think she’s not only one of the best point guards in the state, but the way she handles the ball under pressure and the way she defends, I think she’s one of the best point guards in the country.”

DeJonge said Wiard has become more assertive offensively, although she continues to dish out about five assists per game. She’s had a blistering recent stretch of scoring, including a 39-point output against Hart on Jan. 22, which set a new single-game record at Oakridge.

“Coach has told me that I need to be more aggressive in looking for my shot, so I listened,” Wiard said. “I want to be a player who can put the team on my back, but I still want to create shots for my teammates.”

DeJonge said Wiard can score in a number of ways. She possesses an outstanding long-range jump shot, a killer pull-up shot, and is tremendous finishing in transition.

Her overall skill set caught the eyes of several college coaches, including the University of Toledo’s Tricia Callup.

Wiard posted a video on Twitter in June, revealing to Callup that she was committing to Toledo, prompting Callup to give Wiard a big hug.

Wiard said it’s always been a goal to play at the Division 1 university level, although she could have easily followed in her sister’s footsteps by playing at Grand Valley State University.

“With my sister being at Grand Valley, it was something that I felt like I already experienced, so I wanted to experience something new,” she said. “And I fell in love (with Toledo) right when I got there. It just felt like a perfect fit.”

Wiard said she was happy that Toledo recently extended Callup’s contract. She was also happy to know that she will be the only point guard in her recruiting class, meaning she could have a chance to contribute right away.

But before she focuses on her college career, Wiard, the daughter of Renae and Joel Wiard, has to finish her career at Oakridge, and she believes the coming state tournament could be special for her team.

She feels the Eagles are a better team top-to-bottom than they were last year, when they reached 21 wins but were knocked out in the regional semifinals by Hamilton. Key role players for the Eagles this season are seniors Gracie Reinhold and Aaliyah Cooper, and juniors Jenna Lowry and Halle Jennings.

“We’re definitely more ready, more experienced,” Wiard said. “We got more players who are hitting shots, which we struggled with last year. I think we’re capable of doing great things.”

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