By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Pymatuning Valley graduate Heather Brant may not have the years of life experience most people older than her do, but what she does have is a pair of eyes and a heart.
The daughter of Deanna and Michael Brant will learn how to put those tools to best use while attending Hiram College, where she will play basketball and continue her education in the fall for the Terriers.
Brant will most likely major in political science with a minor in pre-law.
“Helping at my mom’s job gave me some experience with the yucky side of the justice system,” she said. “She works with mentally ill people who do illegal things but don’t know it, really.
“The personal example I use is a guy says he owns a house, but he really doesn’t own it. He breaks into the house because he believes he owns it and gets arrested. On his medicines, he’s totally fine. Those people don’t get helped the way they should.”
Brant is sensitive to the plights of those around her, often giving of herself even when there isn’t much to give.
“I’ve always tried to help people my whole life,” Brant said. “I want to do something where I can help people with the rest of my life. I try and do whatever I can to help people. If I have something I can give to help people, I give it to them. It makes me happy in my life to do something like that.”
“Growing up, I was kind of poor. I didn’t always have everything I needed. I wasn’t that rich kid. I was kind of weird. I connect with other weird people. I tell them not to worry, I will help them. We can be weird together. There are too many mean people in the world. I don’t want to be one of them.”
Hiram was the obvious choice for Brant as she was selecting her college.
“My mom went to Hiram, so she kind of really wanted me to go there,” Brant said. “That was where I went for my first visit. I liked it and after that, I was comparing every other school to Hiram. I say it was made for me.
“They have good programs, nice professors, small classes and it’s in the middle of nowhere, which is what I’m used to. I can play basketball and they have a good study-abroad program, which is something I’ve always really wanted.”
A three-sport star for the Lakers, Brant had a tough decision to make as far which one she’d pursue at the collegiate level. At one point in time, she had even considered playing both volleyball and basketball at Hiram. In the end, she chose to pursue a career on the hardwood as a basketball player.
“I decided I was too short to play volleyball in college,” she said. “I am probably the shortest middle hitter in history. I really considered softball. I’ve always loved basketball from when I was little. It’s the thing that helped me through the rough times.
“My high school coach (Jeff Compan) really helped me. What he did really stuck with me more. I loved (basketball) more.”
As she has always done in nearly every sport she’s attempted, Brant won’t tell the Terriers’ coaching staff which position she plays. She’ll let them decide for themselves.
“We’ve had a couple of open gyms,” she said. “I tell them the same thing I tell coaches in softball. I play here, but I’m more of a filler spot. With my height, I’m more of a guard or a wing. I like to drive. I don’t like to play in the post because I get stuffed.”
Where Brant shined brightest for Compan and the Lakers was on defense. Compan, at different times, has described her as just about every kind of natural disaster in trying to relay just what kind of a force she was at that end of the floor.
“Defense is a whole bunch of hustle,” she said. “I’m all over it. Even at the (Star Beacon-Ed Batanian Senior Classic) — girls were walking the ball up the court — I was like, ‘What are you doing? That’s so wrong.’”
Brant is realistic about her own abilities, but she also has an uncanny feel for her value to a team.
“Look at me,” she said. “I’m not super tall. I know I don’t make 3-pointers — I don’t know if I even took one in high school. But I hustle. That’s something you don’t really teach. I have that extra drive, it helps me, and I’m still going to kick your butt.”
Where Brant might be a real asset to the Terriers, aside from the defensive end of the floor, is her hatred of losing.
“That just goes hand-in-hand with the type of person I am,” she said. “I don’t do it halfway. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it all the way. I hate losing. If I’m playing a sport, I’m playing to win. I’m hustling. If you’re not going to do that, you need to go sit on the bench.”
Brant doesn’t stop there, however. She describes what’s it’s like to lose for her.
“Losing is... I would use the word ‘devastating,’ to me, especially in basketball,” Brant said.
“I never want to lose. If I wanted to play just for fun, I would go play a community sport. I choose competitive teams and leagues because I don’t want to lose. I don’t want to let the people on my team down. Even if I didn’t care, I know there are other people on the team who do.”
There have been a number of coaches who Brant has thrived under along the way.
“My mom and dad (were good coaches for me),” she said. “Compan, and Nowa (PV assistant basketball coach Mel Nowakowski) really helped me in basketball. They affected me a lot. (PV volleyball coach Rob) Wludyga was big in volleyball.”
Her family and coaches were important to Brant for the faith they held in her.
“It helps a lot, when you’re doing anything in life, to have people believe in you,” she said. “When someone believes in you, you want to be great for them. You want to do better when they’re there to watch you.
“I feel for the kids who don’t have parents who show up to watch them.”
Brant was always on the go during her days — and nights — at PV. She would scramble from one activity to another, often leaving early and arriving late, because her calendar was so full. But there was a method to her madness.
“I’ve always said, ‘Of course, I’m going to go to college,’” she said. “Then it was, ‘How am I going to pay for it?’ In high school, people asked me why I would do so much. I was so busy, but some senior year, it was going to pay off. I was going to get scholarships. I was going to go to school and I was going to get it paid for.”
And without her friends, family, teachers and coaches, that may never have been possible.
“There are certain people you want in your life and certain people you don’t,” she said. “I’ve found that if you want people in you’re life, you have to keep them there. That’s what I learned growing up.”
With the support of those people Brant has held close and her willingness to take part in any activity no matter how big or small, Brant reached her goal.
“I got a bigger initial scholarship of $16,000 from Hiram because of my activities and my GPA,” she said. “I was so mad I didn’t turn in my application earlier, I could’ve gotten more. Hiram is good at giving extra help. They know they’re expensive.
“I got a bunch of local scholarships, the big one being the Jeffrey B. Meddock Memorial Scholarship. That’s the big one for our school. It means a lot to me that I got it. We had a softball game that night and I missed the awards thing. But when I got there, his dad was still there and I got to talk to him. I was glad for that.
“Most of my first year is paid for. There’s not a lot left. I’d say it was all worth it. I’m getting what I wanted out of it. I made a lot of memories and I met a lot of great people. It was definitely worth it.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.