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No Corral-ling versatile Huskie from Hobart

Northern Illinois's AmandCorral Hobart (22) drives against Valparaiso University's LaurRichards first half Huskies game against Valparaiso University Valparaiso Ind. Saturday

Northern Illinois's Amanda Corral of Hobart (22) drives against Valparaiso University's Laura Richards in the first half of the Huskies game against Valparaiso University in Valparaiso, Ind. Saturday January 5, 2013. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 8, 2013 6:22AM



VALPARAISO — Swish, swish, swish. Nothing but net.

Watching Amanda Corral move around the horn in pregame warmups Saturday at the ARC was worth the price of admission.

Too bad it couldn’t be more often, but she chose Northern Illinois over Valparaiso even though her sister, Alyca, attends VU.

“It came down to those two schools, but I didn’t want to be too close to home,” the former Hobart standout said.

Coach Kathi Bennett couldn’t be happier that she crossed the state line to play for the Huskies. Corral is proving to be a lifesaver for a struggling program.

“She’s fun to watch,” Bennett said. “She goes all out from the first minute of practice to the last minute of the game.”

Corral is versatile as well as talented.

The sturdy sophomore came to DeKalb, Ill., advertised as an off-guard, but switched to the point after Danny Pulliam went down with a season-ending injury.

“We’re pretty thin at point guard,” Bennett said.

“Yeah, it’s an adjustment, but I’m okay with it,” said Corral, who wears several hats.

She’s always been an explosive scorer. In her senior year at Hobart she was heading for a dream season, averaging 17.9 points. A season-ending ACL injury turned it into a nightmare, but the blown-out knee didn’t keep her from receiving all-state honors and being named to the Indiana All-Star team.

In her freshman year at NIU she played with a brace, tolerating the hardware to average 10 points a game.

“Sometimes the knee bothers her,” Bennett said, “but now she’s brace-free and seems quicker and stronger.”

Corral says her knee is no longer an issue.

“I don’t even think about it anymore,” she said.

Name the category, and Corral leads it. Start with a 12-point plus average. She padded it with seven straight double-figure efforts before Valparaiso held her to nine Saturday.

Corral also shook off an ankle injury, which cost her nearly two games, bouncing back to lead the Huskies in minutes and steals. She has also grabbed a team-topping 47 defensive rebounds. That’s a tall order for a short guard.

“Usually our guards are our leading rebounders,” said Bennett, chuckling at the thought of a 5-foot-6 post player. “We don’t have any bigs on the boards.”

Even more so since 6-foot freshman Nichole Wittman abruptly left the program in midseason.

“That came out of the blue, kind of took the wind out of our sails,” said Bennett, shaking her head in disbelief. “Now we have little margin for error and really have to work at scoring.”

Corral generates most of her points from the arc, but she has developed a mid-range game. On defense, she generally guards the opponent’s best scorer.

Bennett needs her scoring but circumstances forced her hand.

“Amanda has become more vocal to try to get her teammates involved,” Bennett said.

Corral also excels in the classroom, with three straight semesters of 4.0 GPAs.

“She’s driven,” Bennett said.

To succeed, that is.

“Yeah, I take it seriously,” said Corral, agreeing with Bennett’s assessment.

What’s next?

Given the never-ending juggling for position among power conferences, I can’t help wonder what other changes are coming?

Football friction has already fractured the Big East. Splintering Catholic schools DePaul, Marquette, Georgetown, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John’s and Villanova bolted, but the basketball-oriented programs need numbers. To maintain the parochial connection logical candidates would be Loyola, Xavier and St. Louis.

Ambitious Loyola coach Porter Moser stopped short of advocating that the Ramblers move.

“There’s a lot of uncertainty going on but the Horizon League is getting stronger unlike other conferences,” he points out. “Having said that we’re in a great position.”

Loyola has upgraded the Gentile Center, reducing its seating capacity from 5,200 to 4,486 by adding chairback seats to create an arena atmosphere. A tireless promoter, Moser continually courts the Chicago media to raise the program profile, but it’s hard to take the Ramblers seriously after their unexpected loss to Youngstown State on Saturday.

Meanwhile, all the spastic maneuvering creates a circus-like atmosphere. Try to make sense of Rutgers and Maryland joining the Big Ten, for example. Whatever happened to tradition? Or natural rivalries?

They don’t matter. It’s out of control and the NCAA seems powerless to curb rampant greed. The craziness will continue.



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