Maebeth (Schalles) Altman had an intense work ethic and fiercely competitive approach throughout her basketball career whether she was competing for a state title at Ferndale High School or a Northeast Conference crown at the then-Robert Morris College.
Growing up as part of the Ferndale system, eventually playing for Yellow Jackets coach Don Joswick, certainly helped her emerge as a solid player. So did competing against the boys during school-yard games.
“I had a big growth spurt between seventh and eighth grade. By the time I was a freshman I was almost 5-foot-10,” said Altman, whose surname was Schalles during her playing days.
“We used to have guys come from all over the area, Johnstown, guys who played college ball,” she said. “I figured that’s the way I’m going to get better. I spent a lot of time on the court with the guys, competing, something that was unusual for girls. You had to prove you belonged.”
(Schalles) Altman now belongs in the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame.
She will be inducted into the Class of 2018 on July 7 at the Pasquerilla Conference Center.
At Ferndale (Schalles) Altman scored 1,662 career points while also collecting 1,228 rebounds and 320 steals.
She was a key part of coach Don Joswick’s 1988 PIAA Class A runner-up team during her junior season. Ferndale lost 74-53 to Mahanoy Area in the state championship game at Hershey. As a senior with the Yellow Jackets, (Schalles) Altman earned her second all-state selection and was Class A girls player of the year.
“Don (Joswick) kept us very grounded,” she said. “We weren’t allowed the fancy music like the other teams had when they ran onto the court. Don said, ‘You guys don’t need to be hot dogs. Stay focused.’
“It was a very good feeling, a nice, family atmosphere with my teammates.”
Sharing the spotlight with their teammate, the 1988 Yellow Jackets girls team will be honored during the hall of fame banquet on the 30th anniversary of the state runner-up season. The ’88 Bishop McCort High School girls team, which was state runner-up in Class AA, also will be recognized.
“It didn’t matter who had the good night. It didn’t matter what player it was,” (Schalles) Altman said. “Don Joswick always taught us no matter who is in the game, that’s the player who is making you better. That’s what made me love basketball the most. It wasn’t about one person. It was always about all of us.”
Next up was a NCAA Division I women’s basketball career at Robert Morris, where (Schalles) Altman had 1,204 points and 891 rebounds. Robert Morris inducted her into its sports hall of fame in 2002.
“When I first went to Robert Morris, there were some juniors and seniors that obviously we had to fight our way in as freshmen for playing time,” (Schalles) Altman said. “The background I had playing – the mental toughness and what they were looking for in the aggressiveness – helped prepare me. I was 6-feet tall. I was one of the taller players who came in.
“I went into high school at 125 pounds. My first three months there I put on 30 pounds,” she added. “I did it through weightlifting and nutrition. That helped me play against the girls who were 6-foot-5. I moved from small forward right to the center position. I had to adapt to playing 30 pounds heavier and maintain my speed level.”
She was named Northeast Conference Tournament MVP in 1991, as Robert Morris won the conference tournament crown.
In 1992 she was an all-Northeast Conference first team selection. The next season (Schalles) Altman was a second-team NEC selection. In 109 career college games, (Schalles) Altman had 102 blocked shots and made 293 free throws.
“We played every year teams like Pitt, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Army, West Virginia, and then the normal conference, where St. Francis was our major rival,” (Schalles) Altman said. “It was different coming from Ferndale and playing on the bigger platform. What they instilled in me at Ferndale at that time enabled me to have the success I had at Robert Morris.”
Also in the Class of 2018 are: Dana Heinze, a four-time Stanley Cup winner who is head equipment manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins; Chris Peduzzi, who was part of the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl championship as the NFL team’s head athletic trainer; LaRod Stephens-Howling, a standout back at Pitt and NFL kickoff return specialist during four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals; Chris Stewart, who was on four Stanley Cup-winning teams and is head athletic trainer of the Penguins; and Fran Urban, who quarterbacked Arizona State to a 10-1 record and appeared in the Copper Bowl all-star game in 1959.
“To be honest, I was a little stunned,” (Schalles) Altman said of her induction to the hall.
“It’s been 25 years since I played. It’s an honor to be acknowledged after all of that time and to still be a name around the area.”
For more information on the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame event visit www.ccshof.org or call 255-2809.