The following is an article featured in the Lima News on 1/11/12 on the front page of the sports section written by Bob Seggerson.
At 5’ 8” and barely over 100 pounds, Amanda Francis isn’t the kind of athlete who grabs your immediate attention. But if you are watching the Lady Racers of the University of Northwestern Ohio play basketball, your eyes will quickly be drawn to this dynamic young woman.
Francis became the leading scorer in UNOH women’s basketball history this season but has her eyes set on higher team goals. She plays with the poker face that all great competitors carry. Her jump shot is a thing of beauty but it is her relentless attack to the rim that takes Amanda’s game to another level. In the open court Francis becomes unstoppable as she twists and contorts her body to slip past defenders, making impossible plays look easy.
Amanda is clearly an athlete in love with the game of basketball and a self described “gym rat.” Her mom, Tracey Francis, recalls that she was a tomboy growing up and was always playing on the basket set up in the driveway of their country home in the farming community just east of Sidney, Ohio. “We couldn’t get her to come inside. She would have played twenty four hours a day if we let her,” remembers her mom. Amanda and her older brother, Andy, who played college basketball at Mount Vernon Nazarene, battled each other for hours on end in their driveway court. “I can’t tell you how many times I looked out the window in the middle of winter and watched Amanda shovel snow out of the way so she could practice shooting,” remembers her mom
Her father, Craig Francis, a long time basketball coach at Fairlawn High School, mentions that “athletics came easy for Amanda.” And he also recalls that she was always competitive. “Amanda played to win at everything she did, even cards. She hates to lose.”
Amanda actually came to UNOH on a volleyball scholarship but walked on to the basketball team and eventually became a starter and one of the leading scorers for the Lady Racers in her freshman year. Following that busy year, Amanda decided to stick to one sport and she allowed her heart to make the selection.
But it was also her heart that almost brought her marvelous basketball career to a screeching halt.
This past summer Amanda began experiencing what she described as a “weird feeling” when she played. She was first treated for anxiety but knew it had to be more than that.
“My heart would just start racing and I couldn’t slow it down,” remembers Amanda.
She went to see a cardiologist and, after tests, it was discovered that Amanda had “an extra wire that was causing her heart to accelerate.”
The cardiologist sat Amanda down and explained the problem to her. He advised Amanda that her basketball career was at serious risk. Amanda was to undergo a specific treatment, an ablation, and then wait a month and a half to see if she could resume any physical activity. So began “the longest six weeks of my life” states Amanda. “I just couldn’t imagine not playing basketball.”
Amanda spent part of September and all of October on the sideline watching her teammates practice as she waited for the results. “It was really hard for me” recalls Francis. “I not only missed basketball, I began to see that the new girls Coach Menchhofer brought into the program were special players. I really wanted the chance to play with them.”
Coach Kyle Menchhofer’s first recruiting class included six promising freshmen and four solid veterans with community college experience. Bringing this talented group of players together was going to be difficult, but doing it without Francis on the court was going to be an even greater challenge.
In late October, following a final stress test, Amanda received the results she has been praying for. Just days before the season began she was cleared to play basketball. “It was like this giant load was lifted from my shoulders” remembers Amanda.
“It was hard at first because I was out of shape and I was real cautious when I played.” recalls Francis. The Lady Racers came out of the gate with 7 losses in their first 8 games, all on the road. Amanda played tentatively, worried about contact. “I just didn’t feel like myself,” she remembers.
But Coach Menchhofer saw the chemistry of his new team coming together and began to push Francis hard. “I started to challenge her, to demand more and she responded” says Menchhofer. “As she got into shape and regained her confidence, her game soared and so did our team.” UNOH has rolled off seven consecutive wins and Francis has established herself as the leading scorer in the WHAC Conference.
The Lady Racers live up to their name, scoring an average of 83 points a game in there recent string of victories. The pace of their game is relentless and they run the floor at every opportunity. Unselfishness and hard play fuel their chemistry. As they enter the heart of their conference slate they will have an opportunity to test themselves against some of the toughest teams on their schedule. “We are ready for that test” states Coach Menchhofer. His girls proved that Saturday as they sent a clear message with a stunning win over Concordia, one of the nation’s top ranked teams.
And as for Amanda Francis, she is living her dream and enjoying her second chance to play the game that she loves so much.
She is all heart.