Rachel Sweger practically grew up in Thompson Gynasium on the campus of Elizabethtown College. Her father was an athletic trainer at the college for 12 years and she would often come home from school and make her way to the gym.
Sweger said that she would attend practices with former Elizabethtown College women’s basketball coach Yvonne Hoffman and dreamt of being like the players that were on the team.
Sweger had an opportunity to play in Thompson Gymnasium this past season, but she did so for Susquehanna University.
“Playing in that gym last year, I kind of got choked up because I always wanted to play in that gym since I was 5,” Sweger said.
That game was the final regular season game for the River Hawks in a 14-11 season in the Landmark Conference. Sweger played 31 minutes, two less than her career high.
While Sweger, an Elizabethtown Area High School graduate, had several ties to the area and university, she had other familial ties that led her to Susquehanna.
She had two uncles and a cousin that went to Susquehanna. The father-in-law of one of those uncles was also a chemistry professor at the university.
Susquehanna is also a university with a distinguished business school, which is an area that Sweger planned on studying.
Upon her arrival to Susquehanna, she selected a business major and communication major before later dropping the communication major in favor of a entrepreneurship and innovation minor.
“I saw a lot of different schools, but family is a huge deal to me and having a family presence at Susquehanna is what sent me there,” Sweger said.
She also said that coach Jim Reed and the current players on the roster gave her a warm welcome that go the ball rolling on her Susquehanna recruitment.
While it was the overnight visit that got things going in Sweger’s mind, Reed said that he had made a note of Sweger as she was heading into her sophomore season at Elizabethtown.
“We are normally looking at kids that are going to be seniors, but we also make notes of other impressive kids. She was only going to be a sophomore, but I made a note and put her in my recruiting database. We proceeded to see her the following summers and then the recruiting process played itself out,” Reed said.
Sweger’s size and shooting ability are the two things that really stood out to Reed and his coaching staff. Sweger is listed at 5-foot-9 and was tied for the team lead in three-pointers.
“Skilled guards with height are good and she was even handling the ball in a point guard fashion. Someone with that experience can be very effective playing college ball. She’s a terrific perimeter shooter,” Reed said.
Through the first 11 games of the season, all non-conference, Sweger averaged a little more than nine minutes per game. Reed has been coaching at Susquehanna for 12 years and knows that even if student-athlete has the talent to play, there will be an adjustment period.
“The size of the game, the speed of the game and the complexities of the game, along with scouting and running sets, almost make it a different sport. Your shot has to come off quicker because you’re not playing a 2-3 zone. As she went through that adjustment period her talent was still there,” Reed said.
Sweger and her teammates got together before the preseason had even begun to help with that adjustment period. Even though she had that experience under her belt, she was still nervous for her first practice in college.
“I probably didn’t make one shot that day,” she joked.
As those non-conference games began, Sweger said that adjusting to the shot clock and style of play was her biggest challenge.
“The game is so much faster. In high school the point guard would bring the ball up, slow things down and call out a play. In college it is all about transition. Coach Reed wants us to get the ball and go. He hammers transitioning,” Sweger said.
Sweger went on to average just shy of 20 minutes per game in conference play. Coach Reed attributes that to her work ethic throughout the season and her desire to be a better basketball player.
“If you know Rachel, you know she is a very committed player and student. She is going to be a great leader for us as her career progresses. She is very, very committed. I couldn’t ask for a better student-athlete. She learns on the floor and takes coaching. She is a core nucleus player for us. I can teach her. I don’t have to critique her because she is hard on herself. She is never a person that you need to light a fire under,” Reed said.
As that final Elizabethtown game approached to wrap up her freshman season, Sweger was battling knee problems. She couldn’t do any heavy lifting and the wear-and-tear of the season forced her to slow down and start over. Sweger was able to use that experience, however, to better prepare for her sophomore campaign.
“I’ve been focusing on strengthening my knees and legs. I don’t want to get worn down. I want to keep working hard and get to that next level with the top players in our conference,” Sweger said.
Her coach echoed that same sentiment. He would like to see her work on her strength and conditioning so that her endurance does not affect executing her skill set. Overall, however, Reed was thrilled with Sweger’s freshman season.
“She is all that I could have asked for when she came to Susquehanna. You don’t always know things about people during their recruitment, but she is exemplary as a person of this school,” Reed said.
“I don’t know if anything she did on the floor would have been a surprise because I saw her play so much, but her as a person is more than I could have hoped for. You want her front and center as the face of your program.”