by Tom Hardesty
Assistant Sports Editor
Basketball was never really on Alison Targosky's radar.
The then-Streetsboro eighth-grader was content to focus on the sport in which she already excelled: soccer.
So when her father Dave began suggesting that his daughter give basketball a try, Targosky balked.
"He said that since I was good at soccer, I could be good at basketball too," she said.
But Targosky wasn't interested in being good at basketball -- or even playing it at all. Soccer was her favorite sport, her familiar sport, and she was perfectly happy honing her skills on the pitch as her athletic career at Streetsboro progressed.
Not so much.
He saw something in his daughter athletically that she didn't recognize herself at the time and didn't want to see her untapped potential wasted.
"Dad really pushed me to play basketball in eighth grade, so I went out for the team just to shut him up," she said.
Turns out, dad was right.
Four years after taking her first reluctant steps on the hardwood, Targosky has blossomed into one of the best all-around basketball players in the Portage Trail Conference.
Through 18 games this season, the 5-foot-10 junior forward leads Streetsboro in scoring at 13.1 points per game, steals at 2.2 a night and has blocked a team-high eight shots.
She also is second on the team in rebounding with 8.2 boards a game and even dishes out 1.4 assists per contest.
While Targosky does most of her damage in the paint, thanks to an ever-growing arsenal of post moves, she's not opposed to stepping out for the occasional jumper to draw the defense out and open up the scoring lanes for her teammates -- an added weapon she worked on while playing for her Amateur Athletic Union team, Athena, comprised primarily of local Portage County talent.
Targosky's emergence as one of the league's top players has coincided with the Rockets' resurgence as a program under the guidance of fourth-year coach Allison Carey.
After going just 5-18 overall and 2-12 in the County Division a year ago -- a season that saw Targosky average 7.4 points per game in her first season as a starter -- the Rockets were 13-6 overall (6-4 in the County) as of press time and are threatening to eclipse the school record for wins in a season, 14.
And the Rockets might just be getting warmed up. They downed second-place Southeast 58-54 on Jan. 15, then nearly upset then-undefeated Mogadore on its own floor seven nights later, falling 55-52.
Three days after the Mogadore near-miss, Targosky scored a season-high 24 points in a 58-26 win at Woodridge.
Indeed, Targosky and the Rockets have come a long way in a short time.
And the best is likely yet to come for a Streetsboro girls basketball program that has captured just one sectional title and zero league championships in its history.
"These girls have been playing together for quite a while and I knew that once they got used to the varsity pace of the game, they were going to be really good," Carey said.
First, though, Targosky had to get used to the junior-high pace of the game. She joined an eighth-grade Rockets team that featured girls who had already been playing together since fourth grade, so getting acclimated to a new sport on a team of seasoned basketball players wasn't going to be easy.
"I really wasn't that good at first," Targosky said. "I was kind of just there.
"The other girls all knew each other real well and were really close and I was kind of like the outsider. I really had to work hard to get to where I am now."
Targosky's determination, combined with her natural athleticism, enabled her to make great strides on the basketball floor -- literally. As a freshman -- just her second year of playing basketball -- she spent most of the season on the Rockets' junior varsity team, then last year as a sophomore, she cracked the varsity starting lineup.
And now, in her junior campaign, Targosky has developed into a bona fide standout on a very good Streetsboro front line that includes senior Marra Woods (8.6 points, team-high 11.1 rebounds per game) and junior Shania Williams (7.3 points per game and 8.1 rebounds per game).
"Without my teammates, I wouldn't be where I am right now," said Targosky. "Having Marra and Shania in the post with me really helps me out a lot."
"She has just really developed as a player," said Carey of Targosky. "I've seen her grow so much, even since this summer. It's nothing we did differently as coaches to prepare her at all. It's just the fact of her growing up from a sophomore to a junior.
"It makes me excited to see the improvement she'll make from a junior to a senior."
That goes for the entire Streetsboro squad, which will return this season's veteran junior class along with sophomore Lindsay Washinski, who has drilled a team-high 17 3-pointers, for the 2014-15 season.
"This season isn't over yet and we want to get the school record for wins, but I'm definitely looking forward to next year," said Targosky.
"We're losing three seniors from this team, but we return four starters and we'll have some good players from the JV moving up, so I think we can win the league and win some games in the tournaments next year."
It's that kind of forward-thinking that has driven Targosky to excel on the basketball floor the past four years -- and has elevated the Rockets to heights rarely seen in the program's history.
"She's one of those kids who is a coach's dream," said Carey. "She catches on quickly to everything you teach her. We can show her some new moves in practice one day and she'll use them in a game the next day.
"We can count on her for offensive production, she gets on the floor for loose balls, she gets steals, she passes the ball well and she shoots the ball well.
"She's an extremely intelligent young lady and not just on the floor. She's also amazing in the classroom and I know because I have her in AP Calculus. That's normally a senior-level class and Alison is just one of four juniors I have in the class."
Targosky is ranked No. 1 academically in her junior class with a 4.419 grade-point average, with an eye on becoming an engineer down the road.
She is currently considering the biomedical engineering program at Case Western Reserve University, as well as the engineering programs at the University of Akron and Ohio University.
Wherever she continues her education at the next level, Targosky -- a first-team All-County Division soccer player the last two years (she has 45 goals and 14 assists in three years) -- also hopes to continue her basketball career along with soccer in college.
An irony that certainly isn't lost on her father, who issues the occasional friendly reminder to his daughter.
"He'll say, 'You know, if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't be playing basketball,'" said Targosky. "But he's right. If he hadn't pushed me to play back in eighth grade, I wouldn't be where I am now."
Facebook: Tom Hardesty, Record-Courier