Feature: Baker, Vardman finding success in college

Former Rochelle basketball player Morgan Baker recently earned Region IV honors for her play with Kishwaukee College this year. (Photo courtesy of Kishwaukee College)

Former Lady Hubs playing key roles with Kishwaukee Lady Kougars

MALTA — Former Rochelle basketball players Morgan Baker and Cesca Vardman shared four years in the backcourt with one another throughout their time with the Lady Hubs. Their journey wasn’t over yet, however, as both players signed to continue their careers at Kishwaukee College this past year.

Both players have appeared in 14 games for the Lady Kougars this season. Baker has already emerged as Kishwaukee’s leading scorer, averaging 14.1 points per game with 13 starts while totaling 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 2.7 assists per game at the forward position.

Baker earned Region IV Player of the Week honors for her efforts earlier this season, which included scoring 22 points in Kishwaukee’s 58-49 win over Oakton Community College on Dec. 1 as well as 19 points with 14 rebounds in her team’s 61-37 victory over College of DuPage on Dec. 4. Baker then scored 22 points with 11 rebounds in Kishwaukee’s close 64-60 loss to Wilbur Wright College on Dec. 8.

“I would say my first season of college basketball has gone pretty well,” Baker said. “Most of our games have been close, so once we learn to finish games as a team, I believe we’ll see ourselves improve… Whether it’s by driving to the basket or shooting the ball, I feel that I need to be the spark to get our offense going. I would also say that my role is to be a leader… I try to push my teammates and myself in practice so we can make each other better.”

Vardman has started three games for the Lady Kougars, averaging 14.7 minutes per game. She’s scoring 7.8 points per game while leading the Kishwaukee defense with a team-best 3.4 steals per game at the guard position. Vardman’s top performances included scoring 20 points and totaling 10 steals in Kishwaukee’s 84-73 loss to Madison College on Dec. 29. She also recorded 17 points with five steals against Moraine Valley Community College on Nov. 13.

“I think I’ve improved a lot since high school,” Vardman said. “I have more control and patience but I still need to keep working. I personally think my season has been decent. I think I can contribute something important to the team.”

The Lady Kougars are currently 5-10 this season through 15 games. The former Lady Hubs each said that game pace has been one significant difference between high school basketball and college basketball. They also said that games are far more competitive with Kishwaukee than at Rochelle.

“The pace of the game is a big difference,” Vardman said. “I really like the shot clock. You don’t realize how much slower high school games are until you play with a shot clock.”

“Playing with the shot clock increases the speed of the game, and it takes a little bit getting used to,” Baker said. “The competitiveness in college is bigger than high school. Every team is constantly giving everything it has, and every team has a lot of fight… I feel I have improved most in driving the basketball. I’m being more aggressive with the ball.”

The Lady Kougars will continue action through the end of February before the postseason begins. Both girls said their experiences off the court have been positive, and both players have enjoyed forming new relationships with teammates and classmates.

“My experience off the court has been very good,” Baker said. “I really enjoy getting to know my teammates. They’re all amazing, and it’s great being able to build friendships with them. My teachers have been great and very helpful.”

“My experience off the court has been amazing,” Vardman said. “I’ve meet a lot of great people and Kishwaukee is a great school for me.”

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