MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — For many seniors-to-be, the summer is an opportunity to spend time with friends and family before buckling down for their final year of high school.
Samantha Romanowski, who will be a senior at Mountlake Terrace in the fall, doesn’t have that luxury. She’s been a standout on the Hawks’ girls basketball team since her freshman year and it has led her to a very busy summer.
Romanowski’s junior season with Mountlake Terrace came to an end in late February when the Hawks lost in the state regionals, just one victory away from advancing to the Tacoma Dome for the state tournament.
As soon as her season was over, another began.
In mid-March, Romanowski already was back on the court, practicing with her select team, the Northwest Blazers. The Blazers roster is made up of some of the best girls basketball players in the Pacific Northwest and holds practices all over the state.
It was just the beginning of six months of basketball-related traveling before her senior year begins.
“It’s a lot of fun because basketball is my number one thing I love doing,” Romanowski said of her busy schedule.
When she isn’t traveling to tournaments with the Blazers, she is often traveling to elite camps. This past weekend, she was in Colorado for a camp put on by Denver University. This week, she will be in Pullman for a camp hosted by Washington State University. All of it in hopes of improving her skills and getting her ready to continue her basketball career in college.
Romanowski said her parents are supportive and travel to many of the tournaments and camps with her.
“They’re happy because if I get a scholarship, it means they don’t have to pay for college,” Romanowski said. “They’re really supportive of it and they know I love playing the sport, so it doesn’t really bother them. They know in the end it will be worth all of it.”
Romanowski has garnered attention from colleges for quite some time. Her list of suitors, all NCAA Division I schools, is down to “about five” she said and she hopes to make a decision by September. She declined to say which schools are courting her.
“I’ve been sitting down and really picking out what I like about them and what I don’t like and comparing them,” Romanowski said.
Romanowski said she is looking for the right mix of academics and a basketball program with good team chemistry and a knowledgeable coaching staff.
Getting recruited as a college athlete is something not many kids get to experience. Zach Wilde, Romanowski’s head coach at Mountlake Terrace, said he hopes she is enjoying the process.
“It’s a great experience for a kid to have,” Wilde said. “You try to tell them, ‘you need to enjoy it.’ It’s really a cool opportunity. It’s right before your senior year and it’s going to fly by even faster. Basketball season is going to be over before you know it. You only get recruited once. It’s a really fun thing.
“My hope is that she cherishes all that.”
Romanowski’s busy schedule means that spending time with friends outside of basketball is a bit more challenging, but there is some free time for other fun.
“It’s not just basketball, sleep, eat,” Romanowski said. “It’s basketball, sleep and have a little bit of fun still. (My schedule) is filled pretty much all the way up and I don’t have much time, but my friends here, they understand that and when I can hang out with them, I do. It’s part of my life, so it’s just something I’m used to, I guess.”
If there is a downside to her busy schedule, it’s not being able to play with her Mountlake Terrace teammates in summer league and tournaments. Several of the players that helped the Hawks get to regionals earlier this year won’t be back next season because they graduated. Much of next year’s team will be new to the varsity level and won’t have the experience this summer of playing with Romanowski.
“I want to play with them, but it’s just hard because I’m traveling so much,” Romanowski said. “At least I go watch them when I can. I’ve only been able to make it to like one game. It’s hard because I want to watch them and play with them, but they know that I’m supportive of all of them and that I’ll be back in the season. I just want to see how they do.”
While Wilde certainly would like to have Romanowski on the floor this summer with her Terrace teammates, her absence could wind up helping the team when the school season begins in November.
“I would say it’s more of a positive than it is a negative for us right now,” Wilde said. “Someone else has to step up and we have to score and someone else has to get shots and we have to get the ball up the court. It’s all positive stuff for us right now.
“The good thing is, it’s not like she’s missing (summer league) and not playing basketball,” Wilde added. “She’s missing it for basketball-related reasons.”
The girls program at Mountlake Terrace has suffered through some difficult seasons during the past 30 years, but last year’s team got the Hawks back on the Snohomish County map. Romanowski would like to help keep them there in her senior season.
“I expect to at least make it to the playoffs and not have another year like the first two years I had,” Romanowski said.
Like Romanowski, Wilde said he hopes the culture change that began in the program last season continues this year.
“We still need to have the same mindset, that we don’t accept losing,” Wilde said. “I don’t expect us to go out and win 20 games, but I expect us to be able to go out and compete every night and be in every game that we play.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter at @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Samantha Romanowski’s travel itinerary since the end of the 2013-14 high school basketball season:
Northwest Blazers practice, Cashmere
NM-TX Heat Elite Girls Basketball Combine, Dallas
Northwest Blazers practice, Spokane
AZ Elite/Adidas Tournament , Phoenix
Best of the West tournament in Yakima (with NW Blazers)
Denver University Elite Camp, Denver
Portland State University Elite Camp, Portland, Ore.
WSU Elite Camp, Pullman
End of the Trail Tournament, Oregon City, Ore. (with NW Blazers)
Peach State Invitational, Marrietta, Ga. (with NW Blazers)
Adidas Nationals, Suwanee, Ga. (with NW Blazers)