OAC Otterbein's Esterkamp excels in keeping control
Her assist-to-turnover ratio is a healthy 3-to-1.
WESTERVILLE (AP) -- Otterbein point guard Diana Esterkamp excels in the one statistic that should matter most to all ballhandlers -- she has a 3-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
This season, the 5-foot-8 senior from Cincinnati has made 202 passes that have led to baskets for her teammates while only losing the ball 67 times.
The 22-year-old Esterkamp credits older brothers Dave and Steve for her ability to take care of the basketball. During backyard pickup games growing up, she was the designated passer.
They never let her shoot.
"We laugh about that," she said. They always made me the point guard."
Dave and Steve Esterkamp were high school teammates at Cincinnati LaSalle who went on to play Division I college basketball at Bowling Green and Ohio, respectively, and now are playing professionally in Europe.
Both liked to shoot first and pass second, so younger sister Diana was forced to take on the role of getting her brothers the ball once they got open.
"They were like, 'Get me the ball at this spot or there.' I definitely learned to pass from them," she said. "They wanted the ball. They wanted to shoot."
Not lost in translation
What she learned playing with her brothers on the backyard concrete court their father built has translated nicely to her game at Otterbein, a Division III college of about 3,000 students in this Columbus suburb.
Esterkamp is the first Otterbein women's basketball player to exceed 1,000 points and 500 assists. She's averaging 12.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 2.7 steals a game for the Cardinals, who are in a four-way tie for first place in the Ohio Conference.
"She's completely ahead of the game," coach Connie Richardson said. "When we take her off the floor, it's a different team."
Esterkamp said she started playing basketball in the first or second grade. By the time she reached high school at McAuley, an all-girls school in Cincinnati, she was holding her own while playing with her brothers and their friends, her father said.
When the groups playing in the back yard divided into two teams, Dave and Steve always picked Diana.
Their friends would say, "What are you doing choosing a girl," the elder Dave Esterkamp said. "They figured it out after they played a little bit. She's a good ballplayer."
Esterkamp's play is the main reason the Cardinals are 20-3 overall and 13-3 in the OAC, which ties them for first in the league along with Baldwin-Wallace, Wilmington and Capital.
Richardson said her star player, one of eight seniors on the team, spends countless hours in the weight room getting stronger and in the gym improving her jumpshot -- still the weak point of her game, Esterkamp admits.
"I put a lot of pressure on her," Richardson said. "We play the way she plays."
Esterkamp credits her dedication to her brothers, who showed her early on that basketball -- albeit a fun sport to play -- is something to take seriously.
"We've had plenty of fights" playing basketball, she said. "At my graduation party for high school, Steve busted Dave's lip open and they had to leave and go get stitches.
"They get physical. It's fun."