AKRON — Sophie Bussard had her offer from Southeast Missouri State at the beginning of last June. By July she had already made her decision. All that was left was to put pen to paper.
Not any more.
One of Tippecanoe Valley’s all-time best made it official in a signing ceremony in the Viking Room at her high school late Friday surrounded by family, teammates and friends. With the last step complete, the senior combo player says she can now focus fully on her final year with the Lady Vikings program.
“It’s really exciting to me because this is something that I’ve always really wanted to do,” said Bussard of her Division I commitment. “It really just is a relief. I feel like I can go out this year and just really focus on my team. I’m not so much worried about playing for somebody else; I’m just really focused on team atmosphere this year. It’s so much of a relief, and I’m thankful that I’ve decided.”
After losing a number of top players last year, the Lady Vikings need Bussard more than ever. And she’s already delivering at a high level.
Bussard is averaging 24 points, three assists, three-and-a-half steals and nearly nine rebounds per game for the 3-1 Vikes. Just last Tuesday, she dropped 35 points with seven rebounds, three assists and four steals leading her team to a convincing, 82-51 victory over Logansport. That performance drew the attention of the Indiana Basketball Coaches Association, which extended her one of four Player of the Week nominations for players around the state. Hers was the only single-game performance to garner an honor in the weekly awards program.
“She’s gotten better every year. She spends a lot of time in the offseason working on her game, despite playing other sports. She still finds the time to do what she needs to do basketball-wise, too, to increase her skills. I think she’s really developed this year into a person that’s really hard to guard,” said Valley head coach Chris Kindig. “She was last year, but even more so this year because she can step out and hit a 3-point shot, she can play inside — she can really play at all five spots if you need her to.”
In SEMO State, Bussard says she’s found a second home, a community that reminds her of her current one at Cape Girardeau, Mo., and a coaching staff and teammates that feel like family.
“I think I chose it because — this is like cliche and everybody says it — but it felt like home. When I walked on campus, I knew right away just by the atmosphere and just the feeling that I got, I knew it was home,” Bussard said.
“I really like the coaches. They care about me. They made it evident that they care about me more than just as a basketball player — as a person — and I loved all my teammates when I went on my couple visits that I went on. They were so energetic, and it felt right.”
In Bussard, the Redhawks are getting a savvy player, a tireless worker and a natural leader and competitor.
“I think from day one she’s been a really great leader for us. Even as a freshman, she was that way. Obviously with only having two seniors this year she’s really had to step up big time in her leadership. We talk about players in Valley history, and to me, she’s right up there at the top with anybody,” Kindig said.
“She’s pretty special.”
Bussard originally committed to SEMO State early in her AAU basketball season last summer. A link to that story is here. She was named the IFN Player of the Year for her performance over the 2017-18 high school season. That story can be found here.