Approaching Maddie Movsesian for even the most casual conversation on a game day is a guaranteed colossal waste of time. When the Wadsworth senior’s eyebrows are furrowed and her face is expressionless, all she can think about is making her opponent’s life a living hell.
The routine begins with school, followed by a 4:30 p.m. powernap. Then Movsesian fires up her phone to study video with a complementary detailed scouting report in hand. Once on the court, she locks into her inner Jack Russell, with no concept of size, and bites at ankles until the intruder submits.
Defensive standouts generally come in two forms: soccer stars or tomboys (or ex-football players like Sophia Fortner and Jodi Johnson). In Movsesian’s case, those are big ol’ nopes.
Just ask the 5-foot-6 guard about getting dolled up for homecoming or prom — on a non-game day, obviously — and hands start flying, a blonde ponytail bobs back and forth and the smile is ear to ear. She’s a girly girl who happens to love basketball and was proud to point out her grandparents’ favorite picture is of her in a ballcap and high heels as an elementary school student.
This is a production nearly every high school girl partakes in, but Movsesian and her crew of Julia Horner, Katie Johnson, Jackie Toth, Stacy Witschey, Devon Knapp and Hannah Toolis go to another level. For example, Movsesian smooth-talked her parents into buying a more-expensive-than-usual dress for prom last spring. Then she got a job so she could buy another dress for homecoming because, as girls can attest, heaven forbid you wear the same one twice.
There also is a month of tanning, leading to getting nails and hair done before a bazillion pictures on the day of the dance — the group’s boyfriends do their own thing until it’s time to say “cheese” — but Movsesian’s theory is look good, feel good and dance the night away.
“Basketball’s just one of those things I love to put all my effort into,” she said. “When it comes time for a game, I zone in on that, but outside of that, I’m a girly girl. I love to get all dressed up and wear heels and makeup and all that stuff.
“I do get into it, but once it’s time (for the dance), I try to have fun. I would say that I do get very zoned in on that stuff as well as basketball.”
Movsesian laughs at the obvious contrast of glamour girl and high-octane competitor. There is a common theme, however, and that’s attention to detail in preparation for the big event.
Never a great shooter and never a point guard — at least until last season — being a defensive pest is Movsesian’s Nos. 1, 2 and 3 priorities. Coach Andrew Booth’s favorite story is from Movsesian’s youth days, when she made an opposing point guard cry because she couldn’t get the ball past midcourt.
That’s why Movsesian was in the rotation when the Grizzlies won the 2016 Division I state championship, and it’s why the thought of taking her out of the starting lineup this season for a better offensive option has never crossed Booth’s mind as Wadsworth prepares to play Strongsville on Friday in the Norwalk Regional championship game.
Toss in leadership that complements team general Fortner, especially on the defensive end, and there’s no true way to measure Movsesian’s value beyond 3.4 points, 2.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game.
“She’s the kid that if I went down to the junior high and said, ‘I want you to go up and watch a kid and how we want to play defense in our program, I’d watch No. 24,”’ Booth said. “She’s tenacious, she’s intense, she doesn’t back down from anybody. I can put her on (positions) one through five and it doesn’t matter. Her attitude is, ‘I’m going to get after you.’”
Few in Northeast Ohio can match the caliber of players Movsesian has guarded, including 6-0 reigning Ohio Ms. Basketball Kierstan Bell of Canton McKinley last week. Movsesian split time with Fortner and received plenty of backside help as Bell was limited to a season-low 17 points.
Going back to the Jack Russell Terrier mentality, Movsesian suggested guarding taller, slower players is slightly easier. She preferred to glow about the skills of 5-0 Solon jitterbug Mariah Modkins, a Kent State recruit, and former Mason point guard Jailyn Mason, who’s averaging 11.0 points and 3.0 assists for Arkansas these days.
There have been others, of course, like Lakota West’s Abby Prohaska (Notre Dame), North Royalton’s Gabby White (Army), Nordonia’s Soleil Barnes (Toledo) and Reynoldsburg’s Adrian Crockwell (undeclared), but Movsesian has the same goal every game: Shut them down.
“I’ve always been that way. I love to just get into people,” she said. “I love getting in their head. That’s my favorite part.”
Offense isn’t Movsesian’s thing with 198 points in 80 career games, but she was forced to play big minutes at point guard last season after Fortner tore an ACL over the summer. In typical Movsesian fashion, she had to politely tell teachers to stop giving her pity because she understandably struggled to adjust but was doing all she could to change that.
The Grizzlies went 13-12 and failed to win Suburban League and district championships. They’re seeing the payoff now, as E’Anna Won, another player forced into action with Fortner out, is a more than capable backup point guard and Movsesian handles better, shoots better and sees the floor better while back in her comfort zone at shooting guard.
“I used to get really jumpy on the offensive end, just because I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “Once you’re a senior, everything slows down.”
Movsesian and Wadsworth will have a new challenge against Strongsville, which can roll out a lineup of 6-2, 6-0, 5-11, 5-10 and 5-7. There isn’t a superstar for Movsesian to pester — 6-2 Lindsey Thall will be mostly someone else’s responsibility — but she’ll be on her toes identifying who can drive, who can shoot and who can’t.
Rest assured, Movsesian will get in a nap, fire up her smart phone and shut off the rest of humanity.
That new prom dress can wait, too.
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or firstname.lastname@example.org.