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Rising in the college ranks

Thanks to hard work, Southwest Minnesota State University and New Ulm graduate Meleah Reinhart has seen her numbers get better every year

Photo courtesy of SMSU Athletics New Ulm High School graduate and current Southwest Minnesota State University junior guard Meleah Reinhart is making a name for herself at the Division II level. She is currently among the league leaders in points per game for the Mustangs.

MARSHALL — As a freshman at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall, New Ulm High School graduate Meleah Reinhart was amazed of the caliber of athletes at the Division II level.

So she worked even harder on her game over the years. She got stronger, faster, fine-tuned some parts, and now, she’s one of the better players in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

It wasn’t an easy path to follow. She spent a lot of time working on everything. But the work is paying off now as she’s averaging 15.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. She had a season-high 26 points at Sioux Falls earlier this year. As of January 27, the Mustangs were off to a 10-9 start and 5-9 in the NSIC.

“I would say my game has improved significantly since freshman year,” she said. “Everyone is bigger, faster, and stronger at the college level. As a junior, I have increased my ability to get to the rim and finish or get to the free throw line. I also spent a lot of time outside of practice and in the offseason in the gym shooting. Focusing on increasing my ability to shoot from the outside has opened up driving lanes, passing lanes, and has made me a bigger threat. This has also helped the team, having more scoring threats on the floor has opened up significant opportunities to get the ball to teammates for them to score.”

Her role has grown each year. As a freshman, she was more of a role player for the Mustangs and she averaged 7.5 ppg her freshman year and that increased to 11.7 ppg in her sophomore year. While the scoring numbers are up this year, she’s also taking on a new role at the college level.

Photos courtesy of SMSU Athletics Meleah Reinhart is averaging 15.8 points per game this season for the Mustangs.

“As a freshman, I would say I was more of a role player,” she said. “My role has grown a lot since freshman year. As a junior I consider myself a leader on the team and someone that can make a significant difference physically on the floor and by helping my teammates out vocally on or off the floor.

“It was tough initially,” she said of the college game. “Everyone is bigger, faster, and stronger at the college level. During my freshman year I was not very consistent, and I was trying to figure the game out. As a sophomore and now a junior I have learned to play free, play confident, and have fun doing it instead of being so worked up about doing everything right.”

With her experience, she has a pretty good feel as to what teams are going to throw at her on any given game day. Through scouting and practice, she’s been able to get herself ready.

“I feel I have grown accustomed to what teams re going to throw at us,” she said. “Every week there is a scout on what both teams are going to do offensively and defensively. We gain a pretty good understanding through scout and practice what to expect. Most of the time we just have to go out and play and not complicate anything teams try to throw at us.”

A dominant player at the high school ranks, Reinhart finished her career with 1,821 points, which ranks third all-time for the City of New Ulm behind fellow NUHS graduate Joey Batt (2,301 points) and Minnesota Valley Lutheran graduate Galen Holzhueter (1,842 career points). Even though she ranked second all-time when she graduated (Batt passed her last year), she knew she had to improve on several aspects of her game at the college level.

Photos courtesy of SMSU Athletics Meleah Reinhart is averaging 15.8 points per game this season for the Mustangs.

“It is hard to compare college to high school. The level of physicality and skill increases significantly,” she said. “In college, everyone is at the Division II level for a reason and it definitely shows. With our team, there are so many people that could score in double figures on any given night. Therefore, there is less pressure to score one or two people.

“Though if I had to choose the biggest change it would be my ability to finish at the rim,” she said. “In high school there weren’t many 6-foot-2, 6-3, or 6-4 girls standing in the lane and now we see that size and physicality every game.”

Reinhart is another player from the area that benefitted from playing MN Rise basketball. She said that the program helped her to get to where she is today.

“Playing for the MN Rise gave me the opportunity to play against some of the best competition in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin,” she said. Playing for the MN Rise allowed me to have the opportunity to play at the next level.”

She was also excited to compete against Batt, a freshman at Minnesota State University, Mankato.

Meleah Reinhart, Jr., SMSU, Marshall • 15.6 points per game • 25 minutes per game • 4.3 rebounds per game

“It was fun playing against Joey this year,” she said. “Even though I knew I was going to be playing against Joey it was just another game. It was great to see her making an impact for MSU as a freshman.”

Overall, she said she made the right choice with SMSU.

“I am happy I made the decision to go to SMSU,” she said. “The support from the campus and community is amazing. The relationships with coaches and my teammates have been my favorite part. I feel that the relationships formed have allowed us the opportunity to experience some success.”

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