South Carroll junior Nikki Heim leads her team in scoring (13.8… (Steve Ruark / Photo for The…)
As the point guard for South Carroll's 13th-ranked girls basketball team, Nikki Heim stepped into a leadership role this season. Not only does the 5-foot-10 junior lead her team in scoring with 13.8 points per game, but she also leads the team in assists, averaging 4.8 for the 13-2 Cavaliers, who are undefeated in Carroll County.
Heim, who celebrated her 17th birthday last week, is an Amateur Athletic Union veteran, playing with the Maryland Storm, but she also plays lacrosse and field hockey for the Cavaliers. She wants to play basketball in college and has a 3.72 GPA. Very close to her parents and sisters, Heim has an extended family that includes more than 50 first cousins.
Question: How did you get started playing basketball?
Answer: Basketball started in second grade. I always played soccer and lacrosse, and my dad was always really into basketball and my sister Melissa had started. My first year, I played for a rec team, but the next year I went to play with my sister on a sixth-grade travel South Carroll team.
Q: Did you always play up after that?
A: Yes. Melissa is two years older than me, so that year I played on a sixth-grade team when I was in fourth grade, and from then on, I played one year ahead of me into high school.
Q: Did it help you to play up?
A: Oh, my gosh, absolutely. (Laughs.) I've always been kind of like the young one. I always hung out with my older sister, trying to be more mature and all that. Especially in the basketball world, where the game's faster, people are bigger, you've got to realize how to play against that, so that helped me a lot.
Q: You played so many other sports — how did basketball get to be the one?
A: I've always been really interested in basketball and lacrosse, and I played club basketball and club lacrosse until my freshman year. My (Checkers club) lacrosse team did very well. We won the national championship and my basketball team, we also did very well. We got eighth at nationals this past year. A bunch of my friends were going the lacrosse route, and there was one time where it was so much. I had to choose because they had tournaments at the same time, so I was like, "I like basketball better. Time to run with it."
Q: What is your role on the Cavaliers team?
A: This year after losing my sister and our two other captains, I think we really needed some leadership, and I play some of that role and Erin Slifer — she's our senior this year — and Katie Mathias. We really do have a unique team. All of us really get along on and off the court, which is remarkable. I play point guard most of the time, and I sometimes play on the wing. I handle the ball and I'm the distributor.
Q: As a point guard, how do you take charge without stepping on people's toes?
A: Sometimes it can be a fine line where you don't want to ball-hog it too much, but when you're in the middle of the game, you have such momentum and you're not worried about that. All you're worried about is winning, so when you have that mindset it's distribute and look for the shot. You have to get the fine balance of both.
Q: How did you get involved in reffing?
A: A few of my friends have done reffing and they enjoyed it, and it really gave me a new perspective. My dad's the head of Carroll County travel basketball, so he had an in.
Q: What kind of new perspective?
A: It is so hard. My first game, all I did was call jump balls. It really does give you a new perspective on why they call things. Before, I would get so mad when they would call a foul on me. "What did I do? What did I do?" But as a ref, you look for the hand on the player, you look for not standing completely straight up. It's helped me as a player to know what they're looking for.
Q: Do you have any hobbies?
A: I love to scrapbook. I'm definitely a picture person. I take pictures everywhere. I go hiking in the summer in Colorado. We have a cabin out there. I've climbed a couple of 14,000-foot mountains.
Q: Any desire to climb Mount Kilimanjaro or something like that someday?
A: Probably not that big, but I would love to get a bunch more 14,000-foot mountains. Climbing more mountains in Colorado would be cool.
Q: What do you do on snow days?
A: Snow days are the best because I'm so busy all the time I barely have an hour to be by myself. I'm definitely a snow bunny, so I love to go outside. Still make snowmen. I think I just enjoy the time to myself. I rarely ever watch TV, so I might watch a movie.
Q: Did you make a New Year's resolution?
A: Yes I did. My New Year's resolution was to eat healthier. Not in the sense of losing weight, but just to get more energy. I actually went through a period where I thought I was allergic to gluten. I have a lot of sensitivities to different foods, so eating healthier makes me feel better.
Q: Is that still intact?
A: (Laughs.) Birthdays are the worst with cake and everything, but I've held to it pretty well.
Q: What's your most prized possession and why?
A: I have a ring that I got in New Mexico, which is where my dad grew up and my grandparents live. Me and my sister got matching ones. They both had turquoise in them. She's my best friend in the entire world and especially since she's gone to college, it kind of keeps us connected.