Emma Ruhlman is more than just a basketball player.
That says a lot, considering Ruhlman is a two-time all-state basketball player. As a junior, she led Warren Area High School to her second District 10 Championship in three seasons. She was named co-region 6 player of the year in 2020-2021, averaging 14.7 points per game with 35 3 points to go along with 10 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 2.5 steals per. match. She has passed 1,000 career points and her senior season is yet to be played.
Part of that went into his decision to commit to playing for Division II Hillsdale College in Michigan.
“A lot of people know Emma the basketball player”, Warren coach Lisa LaVan and Emma’s mother said. “She’s a 1,000 point scorer, a real competitor, a great leader and a hard worker. Many do not know how high she is academically and also how strong her moral faith is. Hillsdale was the perfect fit for everything – basketball, academics, and faith. “
It is clear that her mother and her coach, and her teammates, including two younger sisters, Grace and Sami, have confidence in her. She deserved it.
Trolling behind Slippery Rock, 39-37, Ruhlman was fouled on a 3-point attempt with no time on the clock and a District 10 title on the line. She sank all three free throws and was assaulted in the ground in a 40-39 D10 5A win.
If that fairytale ending wasn’t enough, Ruhlman has long dreamed of playing college basketball.
“It was a long, exciting and exhausting journey full of ups and downs”, said Lavan. “The 2022 class has been the hardest hit by recruiting.
“In October, because of COVID, every NCAA athlete in women’s basketball – as well as all fall and winter sports – received an additional year of eligibility from D1 to D3, which means freshmen from last year can be freshmen again this year and so on. . If your home school didn’t want to take you for another year, the transfer portal would and another school would take you. It has changed the whole recruiting landscape with so many scholarships now shifted to the extra year of eligibility. “
But Emma did just about everything she could to make this dream come true.
“Emma started her journey in 2018 when she joined the WPA Bruins (AAU basketball team),” said Lavan. “On September 1 of last year, when D1s were able to start reaching out personally, Emma started talking to over 10 different D1 programs. It was an exciting time and as things progressed for Emma it was more about the best academic fit, as well as a place where she could play basketball in a great program. In total, she chatted with 25 or more D1, D2 and D3 coaches. It was a lot of phone calls and texts. In the summer of 2021, she limited her search to a few Ivy League schools and other strong academic institutions. She visited Hillsdale on August 11 and immediately fell in love. She had talked to the coaches for a while and was finally able to visit the AAU after a busy July. The coaches were wonderful and she was able to sit down with the admissions to chat more about their academics. It’s a very competitive and spiritually strong school… exactly what she was looking for. The coaches offered him a scholarship and here we are.
A weight on Emma’s shoulders before her high school season.
“I still have a bit of time before I have to worry too much about college, so right now I’m so excited” Ruhlman said. “I worked so hard for this and it all comes together. It’s a really great feeling to achieve this goal that I’ve had since I was little, to go play college ball.
“I’m super excited for my last year”, Ruhlman added. “I know we have a chance to be a very good team. My goal is to win my third District 10 title. I scored my 1,000th point and picked a college, so I figured out those milestones. All I have to worry about this year is playing hard and having fun. My whole goal is to get my team to this championship game and bring metal home.
“At Hillsdale, I want to come in and work hard to make an impact” she said. “They have a new coach (Charlie Averkamp) who has big plans for the program, so being able to help him and my new teammates set this program up will be great.”
The Great Midwest Athletic Conference calls.
“Hillsdale actually hit my radar quite late in the process,” Ruhlman said. “Coach Bri (assistant coach Brianna Brennan) contacted me in July and we spoke on the phone several times and then I visited in August. After the visit I had a good feeling about it, but I knew I had a difficult decision to make between them and other schools. After a few weeks of research, talking with my family, and personal reflection, I knew Hillsdale was the best fit for me.
“In a college, I always looked for a university high school”, said Ruhlman, daughter of Sheffield High School graduate Jason Ruhlman. “I take school very seriously and want to pursue higher education after undergraduate, so I knew I needed a school that would prepare me for it. In a team, I was looking for a family atmosphere full of like-minded people. During my visit I met two of the players and spoke to them one-on-one which was awesome and they were the nicest and coolest people ever. They gave me their numbers and told me to call or text if I needed anything or had any other questions about Hillsdale. After I signed up, a group of current Hillsdale players contacted me to congratulate me and gave me their ‘socials’. I already feel like part of the family and haven’t even met them all in person yet.
What seemed like a difficult decision has turned into an easy choice.
“When I reduced it to my best schools, it was a difficult choice at the beginning” Ruhlman said. “It never really occurred to me that I should actually choose a college. I was so used to doing my own thing during my recruiting journey, it was weird that it was coming to an end. I told my parents, other family members, and close friends about it, but no one really gave me their opinion. They just allowed me to bounce my own thoughts off them. This is my future, so it was my decision to make and listening to them helped me make it.
“The campus is about 5.5 hours from Warren, which isn’t very far, but quite far.” Ruhlman said. “It’s about an hour north of Toledo so not too much snow. It is a small campus and a liberal arts school. It’s one of the best Division 2 schools in the country, which is super cool.
“I am so happy with my decision” she added. “And I’m so grateful to my family, friends, coaches and teammates for making this possible. I am so grateful to my mom and my high school coach for doing everything she did for me. Everyone in my life deserves a thank you, and I could go on and on about this, but my mom was the one to take me to AAU, coach me in high school basketball, take me during my visits, and I know that she has sacrificed a lot to do. I like her very much for that, and I know that she is also very happy with my decision.