Wendling becomes women’s basketball all-time leading scorer

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Emily Wendling made women’s basketball history on Feb. 28 when she surpassed SVSU alum Beverly Sander’s all-time leading scorer mark of 1,922 points that held up for more than three decades. Wendling has averaged a career total of 16.9 points per game, including career-high 18.6 points per game in her senior season.

“(Breaking the record) was kind of a surreal feeling,” Wendling said. “Coming in, it was never really one of my goals, but I have had the opportunity to play with so many great teammates who really pushed me to be my best and really helped me achieve that.” Wendling’s scoring record stands at 1,973 total points as her college career comes to an end.

The senior forward has also achieved other milestones with the team. In addition to the scoring record, she holds the record for most free-throws made with 482, and she finished her career with 995 total rebounds.

Recruited from Flushing, Michigan, Wendling was the centerpiece of head coach Jamie Pewinski’s first recruiting class with the SVSU women’s basketball program. She holds Wendling in high respect with the way the program has turned around.

“Emily was a part of our first recruiting class here and we knew she would be a big part of getting this program turned in the right direction,” Pewinski said. “So to see her have the success she has had and how that has coincided with team success isn’t really a big surprise, but it is a lot of hard work. In a lot of ways, everything we are about as a program is what Emily is about and that is why it has worked so well.”

Wendling joined the team in 2012 as a starting forward. Her freshman campaign netted her GLIAC Freshman of the Year honors, and she was also named to the All-GLIAC First-Team while averaging 15 points per game and led the national freshman class with a 53.1% field goal percentage.

Her sophomore season was cut short due to an ACL tear. She received a medical redshirt. Having the momentum from her freshman season come to an abrupt stop, Wendling made the best of her situation and analyzed the game from a different perspective.

“It was hard to go from being Freshman of the Year the year before to being on the sideline, but I think it really helped to build my leadership skills and just my overall understanding of the game,” Wendling said.

“Emily has changed a lot since her freshman year,” Pewinski said. “Her game has developed in all areas… She is able to impact the game in ways now (that) she couldn’t do as a freshman. She has always been a hard worker and has had control over her game, but now she is capable of helping others understand what’s going on during games and how to help her teammates.”

In the latter half of her career, Wendling was awarded GLIAC Player of the Year, Division-II Conference Commissioners Association Midwest Region Player of the Year and GLIAC Commissioner’s Award honors for her junior season. She was named to the All-GIAC First-Team for her senior season.

Her development and success was something that Pewinski envisioned from the start.

“We did anticipate that Emily could leave an important legacy here as a member of the first class that would change the future of the program forever,” Pewinski said. “When we recruited Emily, we talked about winning the conference, going to the National Tournament and getting national recognition. But at that time, all we could do was talk about a dream. She has made it possible for us to now sell the dream with proof of what can happen when you buy-in and that it can be done here.”

Wendling bought in to the vision. In her first season, the team went 13-14 overall and 9-19 with her redshirt sophomore season. Now, the team is coming off back-to-back 20-win seasons and back-to-back GLIAC North titles. She chose Saginaw Valley because the school offered her the opportunity to make an immediate impact and one that will last for a long time.

“I wasn’t really heavily recruited out of high school,” Wendling said. “I had a couple offers and I really just tried to find the best fit for me, and that was SVSU. I didn’t really know what to expect, I just knew that they had a small team and were trying to rebuild so I knew I would have a chance to come in and play right away. It was only Coach P’s second year, and I really liked her vision for the program. I knew I would be a good fit here but other than that, I didn’t really expect any of the individual success. That is all a testament to the great teams that I have been on through my time here.”

Teammate Katelyn Carriere was brought in with the same 2012 recruiting class. The teammates have a strong bond on and off the court which plays a large part into their success.

“I had no idea what to expect when I first met Emily,” Carriere said. “We were just two awkward freshman. No one can ever expect to have the success we’ve had without putting in the work and Emily has definitely done that.”

“(Now) Emily is my partner in crime,” Carriere added. “We have become extremely close and probably spend too much time together. But I think that’s part of the reason we are so successful because the bond we have transfers onto the court. She means a great deal to this team. It’s no secret she’s an amazing player but even off the court, she makes a huge impact on us. She’s able to get us going and gives us the confidence that we need to be successful. I’ve seen her turn this program around, and it has been amazing to see all the things she has accomplished.”

Pewinski notes that Wendling’s hard work over her four years of play has brought success that will be hard to replicate.

“The success that Emily has had is not an accident. She has put so much work in to make sure she gets the most out of her abilities and she’s always trying to become better at something. She’s only been about helping the team win and finding new ways to do that, which is why she’s a great teammate. There is a consistency to Emily that will be hard to replace, whether that’s how she prepares for games by practicing hard or just getting her work done off the court as well.”

Playing for the Lady Cardinals is something that Wendling will cherish as she hangs up her jersey for the final time.

“It has been such an amazing experience,” Wendling said. “Obviously, I love basketball, but it has been so much more than just that. By being on the team I have had the opportunity to build lifelong friends and I will be forever grateful for my time on the team.”

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