Society would be a better place if there were more people like Molly Palecek. The Wadsworth senior is bubbly, hard-working, mature, selfless and never assumes anything will be given to her.
Basketball always has been a massive part of her life — to the point that she’s never tried another sport — and one of her favorite pictures is of her sitting on the family driveway with a ball as a 2-year-old.
Oh, and don’t even try to talk smack about Duke within earshot unless you’re straight-up looking for a heated argument. That’s on you.
Entering this season, Palecek knew playing time would be limited as the 10th player in the Grizzlies’ 10-man rotation. Many in her shoes would have quit, and there have been dozens of talented Wadsworth junior varsity players who eventually did just that because there wasn’t significant PT for them on varsity. Such is the beast of a great program, as Palecek was a JV/varsity swing player as a junior.
Quitting, though? That was never an option.
“Being a senior, obviously I have to be a leader,” she said. “For me, though, lately I’ve been taking on the role of being the best teammate I can — being the first one off the bench, being the first one (if someone messes up) to tell them it’s all right, being encouraging — and that’s what I like to do.
“I don’t like to quit. If I’m going to start something, I’m going to finish it, especially because, if I’m being honest, at this point last year I was going to quit. I was like, ‘I can’t. My senior year? I can’t do that.’
“I worked my butt off, and once the season started I wasn’t going to give up on my teammates because whether or not I’m playing on the court, every single day in practice is a day I can make them better.”
How’s that for a positive attitude?
Palecek enters a Division I state semifinal against Solon averaging 2.7 points and 0.8 assists with her minutes ranging from to two to 20, depending on the opponent and situation. A closer examination reveals she is efficient, having made 26-of-50 field goals (.520), 14-of-16 free throws (.875) and 3-of-8 3-pointers (.375).
The fundamentally sound Palecek is a classic tweener as a step too slow to play big minutes at guard and an inch or two too short (5-foot-8) to play big minutes in the post, though uber-talented teammates Kacie Evans (Georgia volleyball), Lexi Lance (Toledo) and Peyton Banks (reigning Gazette MVP) have a lot to do with the latter.
As such, Palecek does all she can to help as an offense-minded power forward, where she can hit corner jumpers, make textbook bounce-pass entries to centers or make defenders look silly with a quality baby hook honed by playing against older brothers Tre, Anthony and Nick.
Despite the sporadic action, there’s zero denying Palecek helped the Grizzlies win the Suburban League National Conference championship. She scored 12 points in what turned out to be a huge 59-49 overtime win against Nordonia on Dec. 2, as well as 10 of her career-high 14 in the first half of a victory over Hudson.
Whether Palecek is gettin’ buckets or playing sparingly — she was a DNP-CD (did not play, coach’s decision) against Canton McKinley — one thing is constant: She’s the first person off the bench to greet teammates during timeouts and a cheerleader no matter the situation.
“You need kids like that in your program who come to work in practice every day and have a good attitude knowing they could play two minutes or they could play 20 minutes,” said coach Andrew Booth, who joked that YMCA workers are probably sick of seeing her because she’s there so much. “I hope that all of our freshmen and sophomores have paid attention to the way she’s conducted herself this year.”
Palecek has never thought about what life might be like at another school. She’d be a first-team all-league player for a smaller program such as Black River or Buckeye and most likely record solid statistics across the board as a starter for Portage Trail Conference Metro Division co-champion Cloverleaf.
Wadsworth, however, has a special place in her heart. So, too, do her teammates/friends and a tradition-rich program that teaches young women to handle winning and losing with the utmost class.
Palecek’s career ending in Columbus couldn’t be more perfect.
“I’d rather (the season) be like this knowing I gave 110 percent,” she said. “I’m just trying to soak it all in because I know it’s going to end soon. (Basketball is) something I’ve always loved.”
Contact Albert Grindle at (330) 721-4043 or email@example.com.