This season ArkansasRazorbacks.com will be running a weekly feature series highlighting a member of the 2012-13 team. This week the series focuses on freshman Melissa Wolff.
Needing to replace five seniors from last year's NCAA Tournament team, Arkansas counted on some newcomers to step up this season. Freshman Melissa Wolff
has been a blessing for the Razorback as the team's "jack-of-all-trades".
Coming out of Cabot, Ark., Wolff always wanted to be a Razorback. After a successful high school career, where she was twice named all-conference and took her team to the state semifinals as a senior, "Mo" Wolff was able to achieve that dream. Since coming to Fayetteville, the experience has been all that she hoped for.
"It's been my dream to come here," Wolff said. "It's been like everything I had imagined. When I got here, I loved it from the beginning of the summer when I first got here. I love the players, I love the coaches."
Playing in your home state certainly has its benefits. The Wolff family has been some of the most passionate supporters of Razorback basketball this season. They have even made sure there is Razorback Red in road venues, with a large group following the team this season, calling themselves the "Wolff Pack", complete with signs and matching shirts.
"It's been amazing," Wolff exclaimed. "The fan support I've gotten has been unreal. Especially to see them all come out in 'Wolff Pack' shirts. It doesn't even matter how many minutes I get, it's great to know I have those fans supporting me. I have a lot of family in Alabama that came down to that game Auburn. Just to see how supportive of me they are is a really huge, really motivates me to play my best."
In a tight SEC battle, her family was there to see her pull down a career high 11 rebounds. And Melissa wasn't the only one who notice the Wolff Pack's strong support from behind the bench.
"Melissa's got a great family, there's a lot of love in that family," Arkansas head coach Tom Collen
said. "The Wolff Pack was there representing at Auburn, which we appreciated. It's good to know that they're going to be here for four years. That Wolff Pack may keep growing on us. That was good to see."
As a true freshman, Wolff has gotten a lot of playing time because of her high basketball IQ and her versatility. She has the ability to play multiple positions, as both a guard and a forward, guard a variety of different players, and succeed as both a scorer and a rebounder. While not settling into a set position, Wolff has performed admirably at a number of spots and on both ends of the court.
"It's hard for me to determine my preference," Wolff said. "It's different for offense and defense. On defense I think I'd rather be guarding a post player, I kind of like to push around with people and battle them for rebounds. On offense I've played guard more in high school, so I like to try and face up and look for the drive or the shot there. Being versatile has really helped me to just get on the court and play at different positions, giving whoever is playing the two or the three a break. My main role is to stop on defense and get rebounds, which is one of my biggest strengths."
Wolff has had a handful of big performances already this season, which has helped her settle into a consistent role in the rotation. She led the team in scoring at Furman, recording a career high 15 points. She also set a career high by getting to double digit rebounds for the first time at Auburn.
"At Furman my teammates got me the ball in the right spot and right time," Wolff explained. "I just knocked down my shots. In the Auburn game I was going hard to the boards every chance I got, and I happened to get a lot of them."
Wolff has been a reliable player for the Razorbacks this season, averaging over 17 minutes a game in her first season, and still has a long career ahead of her. Coach Collen has been able to trust her in big moments this season, and appreciates her dedication and understanding of the game.
"She's been really good as a freshman," Collen said. "She's been steady, and she's versatile. She's a jack of all trades type. She's played the two, three, and the four for us. She's a kid we know we can count on. When we talk about mental preparation and having focus and attention to detail, she definitely has that. And that's especially unusual for a freshman to have that. That's really the reason that she's logged the minutes that she has. It's not because she's the most talent or gifted kid in terms of size or athleticism. She's just in the right place at the right time. She does the right things. That's a good sign. Those are the kind of kids you want to coach and those are the kind of kids you are going to win with."