Despite scoring 1,733 points – more than any boy or girls player at at Greater Johnstown High School – and grabbing 1,325 rebounds during her stellar basketball career, Becky Siembak did not get many offers to go play college ball.
But the Trojans standout, who graduated in 2000, finally did receive the opportunity that she was craving when then-Slippery Rock coach Darcie Vincent recruited her.
“I was disappointed at first when I was turned down by college after college – all because I was 2 inches shy of 6 feet,” Siembak said in a telephone interview. “All I wanted was a chance. I used that to drive me. I worked even harder in order to prove to all those coaches that didn't recruit me that they should have.”
When Vincent later left Slippery Rock for California University of Pennsylvania, Siembak followed her and had to sit out a season as a redshirt due to the transfer.
She then scored 2,019 points and had 1,203 rebounds in college and was on two Vulcans teams that won 68 of 71 women’s basketball games – including the 2004 NCAA Division II championship.
“The belief that all things happen for a reason is so true in this case," she said. "If Slippery Rock would have released me, I wouldn’t have been a part of the national championship team.
"Darcy and I are still friends and I joke that I thank her for giving me not just the opportunity on the court but also with my education. She told me I was her No. 9 recruit and she took a chance on me."
In her college career, Siembak became one of 15 players in NCAA Division II history to score more than 2,000 career points and with more than 1,000 rebounds.
She was named the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) NCAA Division II Player of the Year as a junior in 2003 and was a first-team All-American.
"That was such a whirlwind," Siembak said about the 2003 NCAA honor. "I just couldn't believe it was happening to me."
Siembak said that as a child, she originally was interested in ice skating and her working mother would get up early to get her to 6 a.m. practices at the Cambria County War Memorial Arena on Saturdays.
"I think my mom pushed me in the direction of basketball when I was in third grade because the YMCA games started at 8 a.m.," Siembak said with a chuckle. "I took to basketball right away and decided when I was in elementary school that I wanted to play college ball."
Siembak was inducted into the California University Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Cambria County Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. Her Trojans No. 42 jersey was retired at the school on January 19, 2011.
"I was very grateful to play at Johnstown with some great athletes – like Carrie Thomas and Kelly Martin," said Siembak, who was a four-time all-conference player in high school. "We played in the Mid-Alleghenies Conference against teams like Altoona, Hollidaysburg and State College. We may not have always won, but I think it really helped prepare me for college competition."
Siembak also was a standout volleyball player and a thrower in track and field for the Trojans.
She earned her degree from California in 2004. She is a special education teacher at Trinity Middle School in Washington County and said that her wonderful parents, Chet and Dorothy, were always very supportive of her.