ASHTON – Finally, after months of agonizing over a college decision and dealing with a serious illness, Madeline Prestegaard is stress-free.
A big weight was taken off the shoulders of AFC’s 6-foot-2 post this past Monday, when she verbally committed to playing Division I basketball at the University of Vermont.
Prestegaard took an official visit to Burlington 2 weeks ago, and instantly fell in love with the rural campus on the shores of Lake Champlain. She had some in-state schools like
Illinois-Chicago and Bradley
mildly interested in her, as well as quite a few Division II schools, but none to the level of the Catamounts.
“I just loved it out there. It was somewhere I could see myself for the next 4 years,” Prestegaard said. “I loved the coaches, the school and the area. There’s so much to do. It was an awesome experience.”
Prestegaard has been a 3-year mainstay for AFC, earning NUIC East first-team honors in her freshman, sophomore and junior campaigns. She averaged 14.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 steals and 1.4 blocks per game last season, earning her an All-State honorable mention nod from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association.
She averaged 14.8 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.2 steals and two blocks per game as a sophomore. Her freshman stats (9.6 points, eight rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game) weren’t too shabby either while playing alongside her older sister, Allison.
Her dominance on the blocks alongside her sister, Jaynee, earned her some interest, but her AAU program helped immensely in exposure to out-of-state programs. Madeline played with her sister, as well current Arkansas forward and former Stillman Valley standout Macy Weaver on the Midwest Wildcats AAU team. Stillman coach Bobby Mellon and others within the program were instrumental in orchestrating the next step for Prestegaard.
“They had the right people to point me where to go,” Prestegaard said. “They had all the contacts I needed.”
The early signing period for girls basketball isn’t until November 8, but Prestegaard has closed her recruiting permanently. She is dead-set on Vermont, and made the decision several days ago so she can be stress-free going into her final season for the Raiders. She had just returned to action on the volleyball court after a bout with mononucleosis, and wanted to feel better physically and mentally.
When she signs her National Letter of Intent in early November, Prestegaard will become the first player from the NUIC since Aquin’s Sophie Brunner to play Division I girls basketball.
Brunner went on to lead Arizona State to four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, and etched her name in the school record books, finishing third in career points (1,405) and field goals (551), and second in rebounds (921).
“I’ve been looking up to her since before I started high school because of what she did for the NUIC and girls basketball,” Prestegaard said. “She motivated a bunch of players, and I’m one of those kids. She helped me realize we can be small-town kids and big-school athletes.”
Like Brunner, Prestegaard will have to adapt to a much different geography. Growing up in Freeport, Brunner had to transition to the dry air and mountainous climate of Tempe, Arizona. Prestegaard will go from being surrounded by cornfields to encircled by the Adirondack Mountains and Lake Champlain.
“It’s going to be like living in a whole other world the next 4 years, aside from being home,” Prestegaard said. “It’s going to be exciting. It kind of scares me, but I think that’s good.”
When she packs her bags and heads to Burlington next fall, Prestegaard will take with her a few lessons she’s learned within the AFC girls basketball program, most importantly the relationships and bonds she’s forged with her teammates.
She has been a part of bringing home plenty of hardware in the past 3 years, and has a few more goals left to accomplish before she trades in the black and yellow of AFC for the green and white of Vermont.
“We’re hoping to win a sectional – that’s the biggest goal,” Prestegaard said. “I want to go 4-for-4 in conference championships. I know we have the tools to do it. All we have to do is put our minds to it.”
2016-17 stats: 14.9 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.4 steals, 1.4 blocks
FYI: Three-time NUIC East 1st team selection; has helped lead AFC to two straight Sweet 16 appearances; will become the 2nd member of family to play college basketball (Allison is a junior center at Wisconsin-Platteville)