Amber Renz broke her own mold.
The Danville sophomore was every bit the force from her first varsity basketball season, everything you would expect of a 6-footer, yet so much more.
Fans saw it when she would pluck a rebound in traffic and race coast-to-coast to finish in transition.
Her coach realized it when her in-game foul shooting was so much better than in practice.
And it was confirmed yet again when Renz was named to the Class AAA all-state team.
Her overall game improved subtly in a year’s time, but it produced a seismic impact.
“A lot of it had to do with her being more comfortable playing at the varsity level,” said Ironmen coach Steve Moser. “I think, given her maturity, she started to realize more of what she was able to do. That year of experience, along with her own ability, made a significant difference.”
Renz led the Valley in scoring at 21.5 points per game. She had 25 or more points in 10 games with a high of 31, and surpassed 1,000 for her career in a state playoff loss.
Her 8.3 rebound average dipped slightly from her freshman season (9.3), but her steals (3.1), blocked shots (3.7), 3-point goals (20) and free throw percentage (75.3) were way up.
The Ironmen won 21 games for the second straight season, in addition to repeating as HAC-I champions and District 4 runners-up.
Renz emerged from a strong group of worthy candidates, including seniors Ali Varano, of Mount Carmel, and Steph Shamburg, of Warrior Run, and was chosen The Daily Item 2013-14 Girls Basketball Player of the Year.
Renz was such a well-rounded sophomore that the Valley post players she called to mind were boys: Tony Fannick and Colin Klebon, former standouts at Milton and Southern Columbia, respectively.
“It is kind of a fair (comparison),” said Moser. “She’s got a lot of tools.”
Beyond her strength and awareness around the basket, Renz is Danville’s top 3-point shooter (20 this season, which was more than the rest of the Ironmen combined). She has excellent hands, footwork and vision. And, again, she hands the ball and runs the floor like a player six inches shorter.
“So many times she’d go full court by herself off a steal,” said Moser. “You don’t think she’s running fast and, all of a sudden, she’s by you with those long strides.
“On so many of the levels she played coming up she did things that guards did: run the offense, break the press — everything but sell tickets at the door. A lot of those tendencies have carried over to now, so you don’t see some of her ball-handing skill in other big girls.”
Renz’s foul shooting was a revelation, even to Moser. She shot just 61 percent as a freshman (80 of 132), but buried 149 of 198 this past season. She had games in which she converted 13 of 15, 13 of 14 and, in the state playoffs, 11 of 12.
“It was funny to watch because in practice she was nowhere near 75 percent, which says more about her ability to focus and rise to the occasion when she was on the line,” said Moser. “I’d like to think she improved because we shot an abundance of free throws every night in practice. I wish I could take the credit, but I can’t.”
Moser said he spent a portion of the team’s banquet putting Renz’s all-state selection into perspective for those in attendance. He stressed that her second-team honor meant she finished among the top 10 vote-getters in Class AAA, and explained how difficult it is for a District 4 girl to be recognized on a big-school team, particularly a sophomore, when compared to players from areas with more media coverage.
“When you look at her stats, her consistency, she deserves it as much as anybody else,” Moser said. “I see it as a great honor for a really, really good kid.”
Renz tore her ACL while playing in a tournament a few weeks ago. She had surgery Friday, and Moser expects her to return to the floor by the end of the year.
It would be naïve to think she’ll be the same player she was last season.
That mistake was made once before.
Amber Renz broke her own mold.
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