Sally Merrill started playing basketball in third grade and had been around the game all her life because of her dad, who played collegiately.
She remembers loving to hoop when she began but also remembers with a smile that “I wasn’t very good. My first couple seasons I never even scored and that discouraged me a lot as a kid.”
Things have changed a bit since then!
Last year, Merrill, a sophomore 5’10” combo guard and forward, averaged 15.8 points per game for the Grand Rapids Community College women’s basketball team, while playing 36 minutes per contest. She also pulled down an average of 8.1 rebounds per game as the Raiders ran their way to a 20-11 record, reaching the championship game of the NJCAA Great Lakes A District tournament.
And she finished the season as an All-Region, All-MCCAA, First Team All-Conference and All-Freshman Team honoree.
She has picked up where she left off in 2022-23, averaging a double-double with 13.5 ppg and an even 10.0 rpg through GRCC’s first eight contests.
Merrill admits that after a good high school career at Hamilton High, she didn’t necessarily see this level of success coming at the collegiate level.
“We won regionals twice,” she said, “and we made it to the Final Four. We always had a really good record. But last year, here at GRCC, I had to step up and contribute more, and I found that the ball was in my hands a lot more than it was in high school. This was a big transition for me and helped me gain a ton of confidence as a player.”
GRCC coach David Glazier said there’s a good reason Merrill found herself with more touches last season.
“I had seen her play a couple times prior to her joining us, and it was her drive, her never-take-no-for-an-answer mentality that she had that made me realize how much benefit our program could get from Sally being a part of the family,” he recalled.
“But there is an added level of introspection that I have a respect for because I am that way at times. Basketball is a sport that demands leadership which is typically most valued if the leadership is loudly vocal. I think Sally’s ability to be introspective will help her find continued success as a player and as a person.”
For her part, Merrill said she loves playing for Glazier.
“Coach definitely has a more relaxed coaching style,” she said. “He lets his players play and create. He also does a good job of finding sets that work well for the players and for the strengths we have.”
Her experience in the classroom has also been stellar.
“Overall, I have had a great experience at GRCC,” she said. “I am currently studying exercise science, and I plan to get a four-year degree in exercise kinesiology in the future. My classroom experience has been positive. I have had many kind professors who care about me.”
One of her favorites, she added, is Melanie Schiele-Gady of the GRCC Exercise Science department.
“I had her for an Introduction to Exercise Science class and now I am in a second class with her,” she said. “She is so kind and always takes the time to say hello whenever I see her.”
Next year Merrill hopes to continue her education, and to play basketball, at a four-year National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school.
This story was written by Phil de Haan.