“Morgan Arden: All-American Candidate.”
That pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the kind of season that the Spring Grove High School graduate has put together this season at Shepherd University.
In fact, if Arden isn’t an All-American, it would be a disservice to the 5-foot, 5-inch senior standout.
The folks at Shepherd obviously think she’s worthy of the honor. They have a flyer already prepared about Arden. It starts with the words that led this column and goes into great detail about her stellar season and career with the NCAA Division II program in Shepherdstown, West Virginia.
Stellar numbers: Her statistics practically jump off the page.
This season she’s averaging 21.9 points per game, which is seventh nationally in D-II. That includes five games of 30 points or more, with one school-record 40-point outburst vs. Concord.
Even more remarkable, she’s shooting a sizzling 47 percent from 3-point range, which is fourth in all of D-II. She’s also shooting 89 percent at the foul line, which is 15th in D-II.
She’s already been named a first-team All-Mountain East Conference (MEC) selection and an Academic All-District selection this season.
She’s not just a one-year wonder, either. She’s been a four-year standout with the Rams, compiling 1,949 points, making her the all-time leader in scoring at both Shepherd and for the entire MEC. She’s the second-leading career scorer among all active D-II players.
Not done yet: That’s quite a resume, especially for someone who once had to play down a level in youth basketball. Since then, Arden has proven all her “doubters” wrong — and she’s not done quite yet.
The eighth-seeded Rams (14-14, 10-12) return to action Wednesday when they face ninth-seeded Concord (13-15, 9-13) in first-round action of the MEC Tournament. Arden needs three points in that game to break the Shepherd single-season scoring mark of 615 points.
If Shepherd can win Wednesday, Arden will have a god chance of getting into the elite 2,000-point club for her career.
Praise from coach: Not surprisingly, Arden’s coach, Jenna Eckleberry, will hate to see Arden leave her program. Eckleberry lauded the former Rocket standout for her work ethic and humility, and said she's a “role model” for all of her players.
“I am not sure I can put into words the impact that Morgan has had on me as a coach and (on) our program,” Eckleberry said. “As great as a player as she is, she is an even better person. All the accolades and records she has broken (are) all good, but people will forget how many points she has made in specific games. But no one will forget the person that she is, the leader that she is and the teammate she is. We will certainly miss her smile and giggle that she brings every time.”
No regrets: Arden, for her part, said she never regretted her decision to play for Shepherd, despite the fact that she obviously has the ability to play at a higher level.
“I’ve met so many great people here and I’ve made so many wonderful friends,” Arden said. “The atmosphere (at Shepherd) is awesome because our community is so involved in supporting our sports and the students and other sports teams are so supportive of each other. My four years here have been so enjoyable in so many ways and I’m so thankful and blessed for the experience I’ve had.”
York County pipeline: Shepherd, which is about two hours southwest of York, has a long history of attracting York-Adams League athletes.
In addition to Arden, West York High School graduate Kari Lankford is enjoying a strong junior season at Shepherd, averaging 9.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists per game, while shooting 53 percent from the field.
In addition, Eastern York High School standout Hannah Myers has committed to play for Shepherd next season.
“When I was at Fairmont (State, as an assistant coach), I loved to recruit Pennsylvania kids,” Eckleberry said. “I always seemed to be drawn to them. When I got the job here, I went to Spooky Nook (in Lancaster County) to recruit and once again I saw so many Pennsylvania kids that I loved. Kari was my first recruit here at Shepherd. I coached Hannah’s sister, Liz, here for three years. Knowing what Liz did for me as a player and knowing her family, it was a no-brainer to go after Hannah.”
“One-of-a-kind player:” While the York County pipeline will continue to fuel Shepherd’s program next season, Eckleberry will have to make do without the motor that has powered her program in recent years.
“She is a one-of-a-kind player,” Eckleberry said or Arden. “She will always have a place in everyone’s heart here at Shepherd. She has impacted so many lives. It won’t be the same without No. 3 out on the court.”
“Amazing” experience: Arden, meanwhile, will leave Shepherd having accomplished things she never thought possible.
“I knew that I would be able to have an impact at Shepherd, but being able to accomplish the things I have here has just been amazing,” Arden said. “The things I’ve been able to do here are things I dreamed of as a kid and it’s hard to wrap my head around (it). It’s truly an honor. I couldn’t have done any of it without my coaches and teammates. They’ve stuck by me and supported me the whole way.”
There’s just one other thing that would make Arden’s Shepherd career complete.
“Morgan Arden: All-American.”
Steve Heiser is sports editor for The York Dispatch. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.