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Girls Basketball: Family forged toughness of Wheaton North's Hannah Swider

Senior guard earned respect of two older brothers – and is now Falcons' career scoring leader

Hannah Swider doesn’t mind when she gets double-teamed 25 feet from the basket.

She isn’t bothered when getting hit by bigger girls while going for a rebound.

Nothing really fazes the Wheaton North senior, which isn’t surprising considering she grew up fighting for respect with two older brothers.

Swider’s brothers, Mikey and Justin, are six and eight years older than her. Both were two-sport athletes at Wheaton North and Wheaton College, where they played football for their father, Mike.

“I learned how to be tough at a very young age and I learned that if you win, you win by earning it,” Swider said. “They toughened me up.

“We wrestled in the house all the time. I was usually at the bottom a lot, but it was fun.”

Swider took her lumps growing up, but she’s one of the toughest players, mentally and physically, on the basketball court and the soccer field, where she is a starting defender.

“She’s pretty tough and that’s probably her greatest quality,” her father said. “She got knocked down every day on the way to dinner.

“They would play pickup basketball with her and they would say if you can’t beat her, knock her down, but she’s not going to score on me. You grow up in that home and there’s an advantage to being the third as a daughter with two older brothers. There’s a dynamic there that makes you somebody.”

Swider is more than a somebody and her last name has nothing to do with it. The sweet-shooting guard became the Falcons’ career scoring leader earlier this season, breaking the record of 1,076 points held by current UCLA junior Chrissy Baird.

In doing so, Swider added something to what can be called her second family. Chrissy’s sister, Nikki, a junior guard, is Swider’s close friend and was the first to hug her after the record was broken.

“It was awesome,” Nikki Baird said. “We kind of knew coming into the season that she was going to do that. She’s a great player and I love playing with her and I’m so proud of her.

“Chrissy was really happy for her, too. Chrissy has known her since she was born and I’ve grown up with her. She’s one of the first friends that I remember having.”

Swider, a four-year starter, earned third-team all-state honors last season. She was averaging a team-high 16.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.5 steals for the Falcons (17-8) as of Jan. 28, with 1,275 career points.

“She’s just a wonderful kid all the way around,” Wheaton North coach David Eaton said. “She has worked herself into being one of the best shooters around. On an average Sunday, she makes 250 threes. She’s shooting on Christmas Day and Thanksgiving.

“She’s impacted our team in that aspect. Kids have seen the amount of time she’s put in and they see the results of what happens when you do work hard.”

In that, Swider is literally following in the footsteps of her brothers. She turned down a scholarship offer from Division II Truman State and will attend Wheaton, a solid Division III program that will be a great fit for her.

“I really wanted to go to Wheaton, but my parents never pressured me to,” Swider said. “They wanted me to find the college that the Lord wanted me at. I tried other places, but there’s no other fit for me.”

Swider will probably get playing time as a freshman at Wheaton, which will help sate her competitive spirit that extends to the classroom. She has never gotten a grade other than A at Wheaton North, pushed in part by her determination to best her brother.

“Justin only got one B in high school,” Swider said. “I didn’t get as high of an ACT score that Justin did, so I was like maybe I can get straight As and beat him there.

“I think [those grades] look nice. I strive for excellence all the time.”

That striving will impact not only the current Falcons, but the next generation of students. Swider plans to major in elementary education and aspires to teach first or second grade before becoming a stay-at-home mom.

Ask her teammates and you’ll find Swider already is a kind of mother.

“You see what she does on the basketball court, but what she does for us off the court is even more [important],” Baird said. “She’s a great leader.

“She’s very vocal in practice and if someone comes to her with a question, she’s going to be patient with you and really explain it to the best of her ability and that’s something that I really admire about her. She’s smart about what she does with people as much as she is on the basketball court.”

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