- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Trinity coach Eddie Stritzel calls 6-foot-1 forward Megan Podkowa his team's Larry Bird.
The thing is Podkowa, a sophomore, doesn't exactly know who Bird is. She was still a few years from being born the last time Bird graced an NBA court.
Podkowa has been able to piece it together, though.
"I think Larry Bird made all his shots and took over the game when it needed to be done," Podkowa said. "I think when we're down, and we need a push, I start going and get into my rhythm."
There is that, but Stritzel's comparison goes beyond being clutch.
"I describe her as our Larry Bird-type of player because there's nothing she doesn't do well for us," Stritzel said.
Podkowa can score. She averages a team-high 17 points a game. She can rebound. Her eight rebounds a game are also a team-best. She leads the team in free throw shooting (82 percent) and is good for three blocks and two assists a game.
For all of it, she is the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week.
"She's the toughest matchup problem for anybody," said Stritzel, who began coaching Podkowa in sixth grade on a local travel team. "She's a legitimate 6-foot-1, but she's our best ball handler. She's too big for guards. If a guard tries to guard her, we post her up, and she has a tremendous post game. She has range from 22-23 feet. If a big girl guards her, she can step out."
Podkowa's full package has made life difficult for her opponents this season. In a recent win over Wheeling, she scored 29 points. She had 19 points and a couple late free throws to upset T.F. North earlier in the season. Against Stevenson, she went for a career-high 30 points.
Podkowa's numbers are legit, too. Trinity has played arguably the toughest schedule in the state. It has already gone up against eight teams in ESPNChicago.com's top 20, is scheduled to still play another and has also faced a few that were once ranked.
"It suits Megan perfect," Stritzel said. "She can play big, she can play small, she can play fast."
Podkowa enjoys playing great competition, but ...
"I don't think we've really had one easy night," Podkowa said. "Every game we have to come to play. I think I would like a day off just to relax and not be nervous."
A year ago, Podkowa didn't have to worry about being nervous. She averaged seven points and was a role player on a veteran team that went 28-4 and reached a sectional championship game. This season, the Blazers are a whole lot younger, and she believes she is expected to perform.
"I felt I needed to step up this year," Podkowa said. "I was looking forward to it. On my grammar school team, I was always the scorer. I was excited to be the one people look to for inspiration and motivation. There's also pressure that comes along with it, especially if we lose, and I don't score enough points."
Podkowa hasn't let her team down often. The Blazers are 19-8, ranked No. 14 in the area and primed for another postseason run.
College coaches have certainly noticed what Podkowa is capable of. She already has received a number of letters, including from DePaul and Loyola.
As she continues to improve her skills over the next two seasons, her goal is to catch the interest of Notre Dame, her dream school, and mold her game like her basketball idols -- Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose and former Chicago Sky forward Brooke Wyckoff.
"I really try to play like Derrick Rose," she said. "I just like the way he can get to the basket so well, and he can finish. He has some moves I wish I could do. Brooke was taller and played in the post, but she could hit the 3. I thought of her as being the type of player I could be when I grow up."
She will always be Larry Bird to her coach, though.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
Trinity's Megan Podkowa is the prep athlete of the week.