Morris Catholic’s rising sophomore Natalie Stoupakis experienced a tough start to the 2019-20 girls’ high school basketball season.
Stoupakis suffered a stress fracture to her left tibia in mid-August and wound up missing six weeks. She returned in mid-October, but injured her right tibia, forcing her to the sidelines to mid-January.
Although she said she started out slow, Stoupakis, who played the point guard position, managed to average seven points, four rebounds, and four assists per contests in 16 games, with five double-digit scoring performances.
“Yeah, I was frustrated. I couldn’t start my varsity freshman season,” the 5-foot-nine, 130-pounder said. “It took about maybe two weeks (for me) to get back into the flow of things.”
When Stoupakis did return to form, however, she stepped in and filled a much-needed role as a starter for the Lady Crusaders, who were decimated by injury. Morris Catholic played the tail end of the year with seven players, head coach Billy Lovett noted.
Stoupakis said as she regained her basketball footing, she developed even more confidence, got physically stronger, and improved her basketball IQ, especially when it came to getting accustomed to the higher pace of play at the high school level.
“I came in (under) the right circumstances and started,” she said. “I got used to the speed of the game and became smarter.”
As for Stoupakis’ hoops acumen, overall playing ability, and academics, Lovett said she possesses all the necessary tools to play at a high level of college basketball one day.
“She smart; she’s a straight-A student, who is very mature,” Lovett said. “And she can shoot, and is a smart player. She will definitely be a division 1 guard. I think she could be a CAA (Colonial Athletic Conference) or Atlantic 10 level kid.”
Does Stoupakis want to play college hoops? “I want to play in college, but I haven’t thought about it much,” said the gifted baller, who turns 15 in September.
While basketball has been a huge part of Stoupakis’ life since the sixth grade–when she noted that she became serious about the sport–she did mention that she wants to take basketball as far as possible. But she said she loves kids and would like to do something in the child special education field. Other career aspirations include sports medicine and possibly coaching someday.
As for now, Stoupakis is social distancing at home while working out and playing solo hoops, anxiously awaiting the return of competitive basketball.
“I’m good, but not playing basketball is hard,” the Totowa resident said. “It’s frustratingly boring, but I know when this is over, I’ll be ahead of some people (basketball-wise).”
This time healthy and ahead of the learning curve for a promising, young student-athlete.
— Jerry Del Priore