Repella making positive impact on young players

TAKING A BREAK — Liz Repella takes a break from Saturday’s Camp for Cynthia at Catholic Central High School to share a moment with her dad, Gary, who will be inducted into the OVAC Hall of Fame on Aug. 19. -- Bubba Kapral

STEUBENVILLE — Liz Repella is a winner.

Be it in the game of basketball or the game of life, the 2007 Steubenville High valedictorian is a winner.

The former Big Red and WVU basketball great is also big on giving back. She wants to make a difference, impacting positively the lives of today’s youth.

To that end, Repella spoke to several dozen girls’ hoopsters Saturday morning at the “Camp for Cynthia” held at Catholic Central High School. The camp was staged in tribute to Cynthia Phillipson — a promising hoopster for Steubenville Catholic Central. The 15-year-old died Nov. 2, 2014, after she collapsed during basketball practice at Central in her freshman season.

Repella brought instant credibility to the event.

She tallied more than 2,000 points in her all-state career with the Steubenville Big Red before starring at WVU where she was also an Academic All-American. Repella has also served as an assistant coach at the University of Michigan and WVU.

So when she spoke, it resonated. It also spawned a myriad of questions from the campers.

“I always dreamed of playing college basketball. It stems from my dad (Gary) playing at Ohio State. That helped to fuel my drive,” Repella told the campers. “I wasn’t the fastest, tallest or strongest so I knew I had to outwork people. I worked out every day after school by myself. No fancy machines. Just a basketball. That is all you need to improve your game.

“I had another dream. I wanted to be valedictorian,” she added.

“Again, I had to work very hard to make that happen. Nothing of worth comes easy.”

Repella delivered her youthful and basketball-oriented audience with three tips for success, both on the court and off it.

“First, you must have a great work ethic. You must have it,” Repella offered.

“Second, never give up. Sometimes life gets hard. If you give up in sports, you will give up in life.

“You also need to be a good teammate, good friend and listen to your parents and coaches,” she added. “My coaches, family and teammates all helped to make me successful.”

After her stellar career at WVU, the 5-11 dandy played one year professionally in Spain before serving as assistant at the University of Michigan and then at her college alma mater. This past year, Repella earned her master’s degree from WVU in industrial relations while also serving as a graduate assistant overseeing academics for the Mountaineers’ athletic department.

“I know my talk today will not influence all 30-plus campers here. But if it positively impacts one then it was well worth my time,” said the classy soon-to-be 29-year-old. “I love basketball and I want to share my talents. If I didn’t do so it would be very selfish on my part. I want to keep giving back.

“I would like to coach one day but not on the college level. College basketball is a grind. You have little time for anything but academics and basketball,” she added. “But one of the greatest joys in basketball is the relationships you make along the way. My college teammates are a great support group and lifelong friends.”

Repella will be heading to Modesto, Calif., in early July where she begins working in the human relations department for PepsiCo. She will return to the Ohio Valley in August for her dad’s induction into the OVAC Hall of Fame on Aug. 19 at WesBanco Arena in Wheeling. He was a three-sport star at Steubenville Big Red before enjoying a successful basketball career at Ohio State.

The Cynthia Basketball Camp benefits two worthwhile causes. One is the Cynthia Rose Phillipson Charitable Foundation.

It provides funds for scholarships and educational purposes. The foundation also assists Mary’s Meals which offers nutritious daily meals to more than one million children across four continents.

Cynthia participated in raising funds for the organization while in grade school. After her passing, the school named a kitchen in her memory at St. Dominic School in Liberia.