By Greg Klein
The Daily Star
---- — This won’t be the last time you read about Cooperstown graduate Holli Erkson.
At least that’s what her basketball coach at Wells College says.
“There’s going to be a lot of news about Holli,” Mike O’Brien said of Erkson, who recently completed her freshman season at Wells. “Obviously, we expect her to be a four-year starter for us.”
O’Brien is already 25 percent correct.
Erkson started all but one game for the Express this past season, helping the team to the North Eastern Athletic Conference playoffs for the first time in the program’s three-year history.
Although Erkson is more of a shooting guard, she started the first half of the season at point guard because of an injury to Jessilyn Artaho-Aki. When Artaho-Aki returned to her starting position, Erkson moved to the two-guard spot.
“She’s a really heady player,” O’Brien said. “She made the transition to college basketball very quickly. The second half of the year, when she got settled in her natural position, she really shot well from behind the three-point line.”
Erkson scored 11.6 points per game in her first season with the Express, second only to junior guard/forward Ashley Roser. She led Wells in three-point-shooting percentage at 32.1 — hitting 35 of 109 attempts — and had a team-best 3.4 assists per game. The 5-foot-2 Erkson also ranked second in steals (1.8 pg) and third in rebounds (4.8 pg) for the Express, who reached the NEAC semifinals and finished 13-14 overall.
“I definitely wasn’t expecting (to contribute so quickly),” said Erkson, who tied single-game program records with five threes Feb. 2 against St. Elizabeth and eight assists Jan. 12 against Penn State-Harrisburg. “I think playing college basketball is so different than playing in high school. All the girls on the team and our coaches were so helpful in helping me make the transition.
“I have loved it this season,” she continued. “It has been an amazing experience. I have really been able to build on the success I had in Cooperstown.”
Erkson played varsity basketball at Cooperstown for three years, moving from shooting guard to the point as a senior to replace 2011 graduate Molly Pearlman.
“Shooting guard is definitely my natural position,” she said. “I feel more comfortable in it. We have a very good point guard, so it helped when she came back. It was kind of the same situation as in Cooperstown, where Mr. (Mike) Niles needed me to play point guard after Molly graduated. In both cases, I think it helped that I had a very good group of girls around me. That helped me make the transition.”
Niles said he had been keeping up with Erkson’s accomplishments this past season.
“I have been so excited to see her do well,” Niles said. “She did everything we asked her to do. In the three years she played varsity, she took on every role we asked her take on and did everything we asked her to do. I’m not surprised at all she’s had so much success.
“Just personally, it couldn’t have happened to a nicer person,” he continued. “She’s not just one of my favorite players I have coached; she’s one of my favorite people, too.”
Erkson kept tabs on her old team, too. She attended the Section Three Class C championship game at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on Feb. 28, when Cooperstown beat Weedsport.
“Wells is only about an hour away from Syracuse, so I got to go to the Dome,” she said. “I was super-excited. I knew with the girls they had coming back they were going to be good.
“Liz Millea’s older sister (Sarah) is one of my best friends, so it has been really great to see her replace me at point guard,” she continued. “I remember her when she was little. I have seen her grow up. It is amazing to see how good she has gotten and to see her grow.”
As much as Erkson said she loves basketball, she may miss the start of the 2013-14 season at Wells because she’s considering spending a semester in Italy. A psychology major, Erkson said she wants to be a children’s advocate when she graduates.
She certainly seems to be in the right place at the right time.
“College at Wells is a lot like Cooperstown,” she said. “It is a family atmosphere and everyone is very supportive.”