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March 14, 2013

CCS grad having success on college court

Freshman guard started 26 of 27 games for Express

By Greg Klein
Cooperstown Crier

---- — Wells women’s basketball coach Mike O’Brien says he expects Cooperstown Central School graduate Holli Erkson to be in the news a lot during her college career.

“When you talk to (the Sports Information Department), make sure they put you on the (press) list,” he said. “There’s going to be a lot of news about Holli. Obviously, we expect her to be a four-year starter for us.”

O’Brien is already 25 percent correct. Erkson, a 2012 CCS graduate, started all but one game for the Express this season, helping the team to the North Eastern Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time in the program’s three-year history.

Although Erkson is a more of a natural shooting guard, she started the first half of the season at point guard because of an injury to starting point guard Jessilyn Artaho-Aki. When Artaho-Aki returned, Erkson started the second half of the season at the two-guard spot.

“She’s a really heady player,” O’Brien said. “She made the transition to college basketball very quickly. The second half of the year, when she got settled in her natural position, she really shot well from behind the three-point line.”

Erkson was the second-leading scorer for the Express with 11.6 points per game. She led the team in three-point-shooting percentage at 32.1 percent, was second on the team in steals with 1.8 per game and first in assists with 3.4 per game. Despite being 5-foot-2, she was also third on the team in rebounds with 4.8 per game.

Erkson also tied the team’s single-game records for three-point baskets and assists in a game making five threes on Feb. 2 against St. Elizabeth, and getting eight assists against Penn St.-Harrisburg on Jan. 12.

“I definitely wasn’t expecting (to contribute so quickly),” Erkson said. “I think playing college basketball is so different than playing in high school. All the girls on the team and our coaches were so helpful in helping me make the transition.

“I have loved it this season,” she continued. “It has been an amazing experience. I have really been able to build on the success I had in Cooperstown.”

Erkson played varsity basketball at Cooperstown for three years. She also played both guard positions for the team, moving to point guard her senior year after the graduation of Molly Pearlman.

“Shooting guard is definitely my natural position,” she said. “I feel more comfortable in it. We have a very good point guard, so it helped when she came back. It was kind of the same situation as in Cooperstown where Mr. Niles needed me to play point guard after Molly graduated. In both cases, I think it helped that I had a very good group of girls around me. That helped me make the transition.”

Cooperstown coach Mike Niles said he has been keeping up with Erkson’s accomplishments this season.

“I have been so excited to see her do well,” Niles said. “She did everything we asked her to do. In the three years she played varsity, she took on every role we asked her take on, did every thing we asked her to do. I’m not surprised at all she’s had so much success.

“Just personally, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” he continued. “She’s not just one of my favorite players I have coached. Of the girls I have coached, she’s one of my favorite people too.”

Erkson is also well aware of the success her old team has had this season. She went to the Section Three Finals on Feb. 28 at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to see Cooperstown beat Weedsport for the Class C title.

“Wells is only about an hour away from Syracuse, so I got to go to the Dome,” she said. “I was super excited. I knew with the girls they had coming back they were going to be good.

“Liz Millea’s older sister (Sarah) is one of my best friends, so it has been really great to see her replace me at point guard,” she continued. “I remember her when she was little. I have seen her grow up. It is amazing to see how good she has gotten and to see her grow.”

It has been a wonderful basketball season, according to Erkson.

“We made the playoffs for the first time and won a game in the playoffs, and following Cooperstown basketball has been so much fun,” she said.

Wells plays in the NCAA Division III. The Express finished 13-14 overall, but 11-6 in the NEAC. On Feb. 19, Wells upset host SUNYIT in the first round of the tournament, 82-80. Erkson scored 16 points, and had seven rebounds and three assists. On Feb. 23, Wells lost in the semifinals to eventual champ Lancaster Bible College, 69-50, to end its season.

Erkson may miss the start of the 2013-14 season, because she is considering taking a semester in Italy, but O’Brien said he believes she will be ready to play next winter. She is a psychology major and she said she wants to be a child’s advocate when she graduates.

In the meantime, Erkson said she is happy to have found a college experience that reminds her so much of home.

“College at Wells is a lot like Cooperstown,” she said. “It is a family atmosphere and everyone is very supportive.”