Oak Creek - Brittany Zietlow brings the basketball up the floor, her eyes scanning the court, looking for potential scoring opportunities.
She crosses into the frontcourt, her mind quickly assessing the possibilities before her. Should she pass to a teammate on the wing, drive the lane for a shot or a pass back outside, or should she spot up for a 3-point field goal attempt herself?
Making these split-second decisions, all while outmaneuvering defenders, is the task of the point guard. It is not easy by any means, but Zietlow is good at it.
She was a standout point guard for Oak Creek High School from 2006-08, winning all-Southeast Conference honors and helping the Knights reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in her senior season.
Zietlow is currently performing the same duties as a junior at Concordia University, which came into this week at 14-7 overall and 13-2 in the South Division of the Northern Athletics Conference.
If they were able to beat Lakeland on Tuesday, the Falcons could move into a share of the division lead by beating rival Wisconsin Lutheran College (13-1) tonight at Concordia. That would set them up for their fifth division championship in six seasons.
Regardless of the outcome of this season, though, Zietlow is just happy to be back at the point for Concordia. She missed all of the 2010-11 season with a spinal injury and was not sure just when she might be back at full strength.
"I had a spine fusion," Zietlow said. "It was slipping forward, so they had to fuse it together. One of my discs got crushed, too."
Zietlow actually had the condition during her high school years and her first years at Concordia, but it remained stable.
"I came back here (Concordia) for pre-season in 2010, and I couldn't do anything," she recalled. "I was just in pain."
On Dec. 15, 2010, she underwent a surgical procedure to correct the problem, and she knew she probably faced a full year of recovery until she could play again.
Zietlow was forced to sit out the entire season, in which Concordia finished 19-9 and came in second to Wisconsin Lutheran in the NAC Tournament.
"It was pretty tough (to miss the year), but I made it to all the practices and games I could," she said. "I was there for my team, because they were there for me when I was going through it."
For the first part of 2011, Zietlow was going through various forms of rehabilitation.
"You just start by walking a lot," she said. "I was up and walking the next day after the surgery. I started out walking, then I could run, and later I could start sprinting. My dad (Jeff) worked with me a lot over the summer. My mom (Mary) and my family were really supportive over the summer, shooting or running or whatever my pace was at that time."
The workouts with her father hearkened back to her childhood, when Jeff worked with his son Jeff Jr. and Brittany on their basketball skills at a local park in Oak Creek, even calling it his own 'summer camp.'
As the summer progressed, Brittany felt better.
"I was running more, and I was fine," she said. "Not that much pain or anything."
On Sept. 12, she got the clear to resume playing from Dr. Brian Black, her main physician through her rehab.
When Concordia practice began, Zietlow was there, and she made her return to action on Nov. 15 at Beloit College. Although the Falcons lost, 63-55, Zietlow finished with nine points, six rebounds, four assists and one blocked shot.
Welcome back, Brittany Zietlow.
"It was pretty exciting," she said, "even though we had a loss. I think I was nervous, too, just hoping that nothing happened."
Zietlow has settled back into the point guard spot, averaging just under 10 points and leading her team in assists with 3.1 per game.
Coach Stacey Brunner-Jones is certainly happy to have her back.
"That means everything to us," Brunner-Jones said. "We really missed her last year. To have her back - she's a true leader by voice and by example. She does a lot of different things on the floor.
"I'm just really proud of how she's come back from her injury; it was such a major injury. I know a lot of players wouldn't be able to come back from that. I know she's worked really hard to get back into shape. We just love having her here."
Senior forward Kendall Kerns, the recipient of some of Zietlow's passes, added, "It's really nice to have her back. She's a great floor leader on and off the court. She's very communicative offensively and defensively."
Zietlow gives the Falcons an all-around game. In Concordia's 79-62 triumph over Alverno College on Feb. 1, for example, she collected nine points, eight assists, one steal, one block and a team-high nine rebounds. That last stat is impressive, given the fact that she stands just 5-feet-4 inches tall.
"She's one of those kids who loves to just throw her body everywhere," Brunner-Jones said. "She's a good rebounder for her size and very physical."
Considering where she was at this time last season, Zietlow is now enjoying herself immensely as the floor leader of a strong basketball team.
"I feel 100 percent," she said. "I've got a good relationship with my coach and my teammates. It's a very good program. I'm glad I came here."
THE ZIETLOW FILE
WHO: Brittany Zietlow, former point guard for Oak Creek High School now playing for Concordia University of Wisconsin
STATISTICS: Zietlow is averaging 9.9 points, fourth-best on the team; 3.1 assists (first), 1.1 steals (second) and 3.9 rebounds (fourth)….she is shooting 40 percent from the floor, including 32 percent from 3-point range….she started all 21 games for the Falcons and leads the team in minutes played with 30.6 per game
MAJOR: She is majoring in elementary education, with minors in science and special education
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