By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
Geneva senior guard Becky Depp has used all of the tools at her disposal to make herself into one of the area’s finest basketball players.
The 5-foot-4 guard has been pushed by Eagles’ coach Nancy Barbo, her assistant Rob DiPofi and even former boys assistant coach Joel Dixon.
There was one workout, however, that Depp and her twin sister, Sarah, may have done their best to avoid.
“My brother (Jake) brought home a huge tire,” Depp, the daughter of David and Kathy Depp said. “There’s a hill by our house and he had us flip the tire up to the barn. He played college football, so we had to listen to him. He knew what he was talking about.”
The task of flipping the tire was such that the Depp girls didn’t even think about trying to ditch the tire.
“He made us keep going, even if it was 10 at night,” Depp said with a laugh. “It was like a 300-pound tire, we couldn’t (have hidden it). We could barely move it.”
Chances are, however, she probably wouldn’t have hidden it, anyway. That’s just not in Depp’s makeup. After all, she spent countless hours in the gym shooting after her sophomore season in an effort to improve her game.
The effort paid off in Depp being named the Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year following a junior season in which she averaged 15.7 points while making an area-best 60 3-pointers.
Working this past offseason to become more than just a shooter paid off again, as Depp is the Player of the Year for a second consecutive season.
Depp understood her role with the Eagles was going to evolve after that stellar junior season and took measures to be sure she was ready for it.
“I knew teams were going to focus on me more,” she said. “And I knew my role would change. Audra Puckrin was our point guard last year and she graduated. I had to work harder at ballhandling and not just being a shooting guard.”
The result was that Depp averaged 3.6 assists per game as a senior — up from the 2.0 she had averaged as a junior.
“Last spring with my AAU team, a guy was recruiting the team and he told me I had to be better ballhandler. Every practice, I would dribble with two balls. I would still work on my shooting, but I worked more with my ballhandling.”
With Depp’s help, freshman guard Lindsey Mayle scored 13.5 points per game and senior post player Natalie Thomas scored an average of 10.9 points per night. Mayle netted 48 triples on the season.
In helping her teammates to score, Depp sacrificed her own scoring average. She went from nearly 16 points per game as a junior to 12 as a senior with 38 3-pointers.
“I didn’t want everyone focusing on me,” Depp said. “Lindsey is a great basketball player and I know she can score. Natalie, too. Last year, I scored almost half of the team’s points.”
Because of that decline in scoring, it took the help of Dixon for Depp to see that the she had become a better player than she was the previous season.
“I ask Coach Dixon if he thought I was a better player this year or not,” Depp said. “He said it wasn’t just about my shooting. He said I was passing the ball and dribbling and, overall, he felt I got better.”
The Eagles finished the last two seasons with identical 20-3 records and a pair of Premier Athletic Conference titles, sharing the crown a year ago with North.
“The last two years have been amazing,” Depp said. “This was one of Coach’s best years, by far.”
Depp struggled a bit in her new role at the onset of the season. She was helping others to score but her own shot wasn’t falling.
“I wasn’t shooting well at the beginning of the season,” Depp said. “So I thought, ‘OK, who has a higher percentage shot of me, Lindsey and Natalie? I got more assists even though I didn’t score as much.”
And then it happened. Around the midway point, Depp’s shot returned.
“I felt my shot was back in the Conneaut game,” she said. “You even said you thought I was shooting like my old self.
“Coach is always telling me to keep shooting and eventually, it will go in. I kept shooting and with a little confidence, it would go in, (my shots) eventually started falling.”
It didn’t hurt Depp to have Sarah on the floor with her. Each of them always seem to know just where the other one is on the court at all times. And, when things are going just right, have a pretty strong two-girl game.
“Pretty much, we knew exactly where the other was,” Becky Depp said. “Even at practice, Coach would say, ‘Can’t you guys pass it to anybody else?’ I’d call her name and she’d chuck it over to me.
“We’ve been playing together since second grade. We know each other’s moves. If we’re not playing to our potential, we tell each each other it’s time to pick it up. We push each other. We want to be one step ahead of each other.”
That competitiveness between the two can lead to some interesting moments in the back yard when the two play a pickup game.
“I’m more offensive and she’s best on defense,” Depp said. “We always go at it to see if she can stop me or if I can score. It’s a battle.
“We always go hard at each other. She doesn’t want me to shoot so she fouls me.”
That might be OK between the two Depps, but it certainly was not all right for an opposing player to do.
“There were games when somebody would push me and Sarah would come by after and say, ‘Don’t push my sister,’” Depp said. “She stood up for me.”
Depp had a lot of help in becoming the two-time Player of the Year, starting with Barbo, continuing through DiPofi and Dixon right down through her family.
“I think (Barbo) is one of the best coaches in Ashtabula County,” Depp said. “I’m glad I got her as a coach. She’s an amazing coach, but she’s not just a coach. She’s like a second mother. She got us to play to the best of our ability. Though she got mad at times, she wanted us to play the best we can.
“Mr. DiPofi always told me I could be one of the best players in Geneva history. I only had to pick up my defense. He helped me out. He always told me I could do it.
“My parents never missed a game,” Depp continued. “My dad would come out of the crowd and tell us how many points we had and what we shot from the free-throw line. They took us to every single thing we did. I’m very thankful for them.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.