Shattering Records & Inspiring Futures Wheeler Builds Champion Legacy On and Off the Court

Shattering Records & Inspiring Futures

Wheeler Builds Champion Legacy On and Off the Court

By Gary Newman

The Ashland Beacon

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They say hard work is truly its own reward. As the world watched a gutsy March Madness performance against the defending NCAA National Champions, Savannah Wheeler’s star has never burned brighter. It wasn’t solely her 21-point score, the team’s halftime lead, or the epic comeback against Louisville in the previous game that propelled her here. Nor was it just the remarkable couple of weeks she had as a Senior at Middle Tennessee State University. It wasn’t even solely the now-famous encouragement from LSU’s coach, endlessly shared on social media as she ended her collegiate playing career. The true essence behind arguably the brightest star we’ve seen in a long time lies in who she is, the lives she's touched, and the journey that brought her to this pinnacle.


Wheeler’s focus is contagious, too. Just before the Conference USA Tournament, she shared what an amazing time Senior Day was for her. “It was great. Great atmosphere. Unbelievable feeling. Got a win, so you can’t beat that,” Savannah recalled, adding “I was very thankful to get to share that with everyone that was at the game.” Before anything else could be said, she was instantly focused on preparing for the tournament.

“That was a very emotional day,” MTSU Associate Head Coach Matt Insell who complimented, “These two seniors who are future MTSU Hall of Famers. A special day.” Insell described Savannah and Cortney’s families as a major part of their basketball lives.

“Savannah Wheeler is a hard-nosed, determined winner. She’s a special talent and has the ability to do whatever it takes.” Insell inserted recalling upon Wheeler arriving at Middle Tennessee State University, “When she came here, she stepped into a position and insisted ‘I will earn that respect’ and she’s done that with perfection. I don’t think I’ve ever had a player transfer in and immediately impact like she has.” Insell described just sitting back in awe, watching her play, and knowing it isn’t always going to be like this.

MTSU star junior guard, Jalynn Gregory shared, “Playing with her is great. It brought a new perspective. She’s a great and caring person, and when you bring someone like that into the game, it’s so easy to play with her.” The two share a work ethic and even compete, pushing each other forward. Gregory offered a glimpse into the success of her teammate, “She’s always going hard, putting in extra time, and she’s always in the gym.”

“I’m very competitive. I don’t like to lose; I like to win,” Wheeler explained, “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.” I knew coming into college, I was going to run into taller and more athletic players. I’ve had to adjust my game and be a leader.” The Boyd County High School graduate and 2019 Kentucky Ms. Basketball award winner continued, “being competitive drives my work ethic. I want to be the best version of myself every day. You can always do more.”

“Savannah had an awesome career between Marshall University and Middle Tennessee State University. I think she showed this year that she could play with anyone on any level,” longtime Boyd County Girls basketball coach, Pete Fraley extended, “The thing that stood out the most to me was that she got herself physically ready to be able to play 40 minutes per game. She hit the weight room and got stronger. That along with her endless hours in the gym working on her game speaks volumes. Nothing that she does surprises me. She’s a warrior, and I’m proud to say that I was her coach.”

Over the course of her completed and impressive Division 1 collegiate career, she’s demonstrated a body of work that spans seasons at Marshall University and Middle Tennessee State University. “When I was at Marshall, I transitioned to the 2 (shooting guard) position my third year, and the transition was an adjustment. I’ve learned here (MTSU) to play at two different paces, making right reads.” She finishes her career with a lot of statistical bright spots, but she prefers a different focus. “I try to overlook stats. I try to focus on playing within myself and doing the best I can to make the right reads.”

Along the way, she’s left her mark. Wheeler holds the record for Most Free Throws Made in Conference USA history. She helped lead the Blue Raiders to Conference USA Championship, Tournament Championship where she was the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, multiple Player of the Week awards, and was recently recognized as the C-USA Player of the Year. In addition to basketball accolades, she’s also graduated in the fall and continues to work on a second degree before going into a master’s program. She’s not quite decided on what’s next; her gentle personality and her driven desire to work hard and get better will propel her to success whichever path she chooses.

All of eastern Kentucky should be very proud of what Savannah Wheeler has done and continues to do. She’s a great player, but great players do way more than play great. They help others. They give credit where credit is due. They outwork their opponents and even outwork themselves. They seldom take curtain calls and they respect the awesome responsibility of impacting others. They achieve on a high level, but hold themselves to an even higher one. They do their job and help others to do the same. It’s safe to say that Savannah Wheeler is truly a great player, but she attributes the influence of her family for their support and credits, “Great coaches, great teammates, and the good Lord.” Whatever happens next, there’s a pretty strong probability that she’s not done yet.

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