St. Mary's star shooting guard Courtney Ekmark, a Connecticut commit and the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year, will be home-schooled and skip her senior season of basketball, athletic director Greg Fahrendorf said in an email.
Ekmark helped lead the Knights to an 87-3 record and three state championships in her three years. St. Mary's went 30-0 in 2011-12 and was tabbed as the best girls team in the nation by multiple outlets. Ekmark is a prolific scorer and ranked as the top shooting guard and No. 7 overall player in the country in the class of 2014 by ESPN.
St. Mary's defeated Pinnacle, 49-37, in last year's Division I championship game but has since undergone vast changes. Five of Ekmark's teammates (Chantel Osahor, Dominique Williams, Danielle Williams, Brandee Walton and Chloe Johnson) graduated and moved on to Division I colleges, while her dad, Curtis, resigned as coach to create a club basketball program.
The departure of her teammates "I think played a little bit of a part into it," Curtis Ekmark said. "They've all been friends since they were eight years old. I think maybe Courtney figured it was time to turn the page a little bit."
Courtney, a first-team All-Tribune selection in 2012-13, told the Hartford Courant she doesn't think she will miss playing as a senior.
"I don't know if I will miss out on that much. I was pretty much done [academically] with high school. I only have a few more credits remaining to graduate," she said. "So now that everything is lined up, I figured I would rather spend the last year with my family getting ready for college."
"And as for the awards I may have won, they are great, but they don't really matter that much to me. I played three years of high school basketball and won three state titles and one national championship. I think that's pretty good."
Courtney won't be playing competitively for St. Mary's but will work to become faster and stronger as she prepares for college, Curtis Ekmark said.
Without school, Courtney will have more time for family, travel, church projects and career exploration, Curtis said.
St. Mary's briefly hired Coco Miller as Curtis Ekmark's coaching replacement in July but she quickly withdrew from the position.
The Knights will now have to replace their coach and top six players from a season ago.
"(Courtney) loved her time at St. Mary's," Ekmark said. "She feels like her high school career was awesome. But this is a unique opportunity for her."