Acuna steps up as vocal leader

Online Poster

Online Poster

By Sultan Abdul-Ahad

Inside the Ubben Practice Facility, point guard Maggie Acuna calls out the play that head coach Theresa Grentz wants the team to run. While the play is being executed, Acuna points and verbally directs her teammates.

As a junior, Acuna knows she has to be one of the vocal leaders of this year’s team.

“My role is to be vocal on and off the court and make sure everybody is on the same page,” she said.

Acuna got her start playing basketball with her brothers and the boys around her neighborhood.

“The competition was better and when I started playing against other girls, it was an easy transition for me,” she said.

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While at Hinsdale Central High School, Acuna was a three-sport athlete – playing soccer, tennis and basketball. While playing basketball there, she was named to the all-state team twice and played her most memorable game to this day: a state championship game against Marian Catholic in 2002.

That night, Acuna’s team beat Marian Catholic 43-38 and finished the season 31-1.

While at Hinsdale Central she developed a superstition, always tying her left shoe before her right.

“In high school we were big on tradition, and now I don’t even think before I do it,” she said.

She said her biggest basketball influence is Michael Jordan.

“He continued to work hard and make other people better,” she said.

Acuna was shocked and excited when Grentz offered her a scholarship. Illinois was her first choice.

Like most freshmen, there was a little bit of an adjustment period on the court.

“It was tough,” she said. “Everything is faster, more intense, more committed and the players are bigger.”

Before her first college game, Acuna was having those typical first-game jitters.

“I was nervous and uneasy,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get into the game or not.”

Her first collegiate start came in the NCAA Tournament that year. The Illini women played Virginia in the first round, and Acuna said her nerves were worse than they were in her first college game.

Before Acuna stepped onto the court, Grentz offered some encouraging words.

“She basically told me that she believed in me,” Acuna said.

While at Illinois, Acuna said she thinks she has improved the most in one aspect of her game.

“I have improved on being a leader on the court and learning how to better control a game,” she said.

While last season didn’t go as well as anyone wanted it to, expectations are still high for Acuna and the team this season.

“I expect to help lead this team to a Big Ten Championship and make the NCAA tournament,” she said.

When she finishes her basketball career next season, she shares the same expectation of other college students after they graduate.

“Hopefully, I will find a job,” she said.