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Game Changers: Ella Wanzer

Ella Wanzer, senior guard and team captain of the Amherst Central High School basketball team, has had many accomplishments throughout her basketball career and is looking forward to continuing her success as a freshman on the Binghamton University basketball team in the fall of 2021.

Wanzer started playing basketball in the first grade and joined her first travel team in third grade. She played on multiple local travel teams but currently plays for the I-90 elite team, which is based out of Syracuse, NY. She has been a member of I-90 since seventh grade and has made countless memories with her teammates. “I started playing there about 5 years ago, and that’s where I’ve stayed. I’m so sad that it’s over because it’s like my favorite thing ever,” she said.

In fact, Wanzer’s best memory from her basketball career was with her elite travel team at the Run 4 Roses Classic tournament in Kentucky. “When people ask me when I have been the happiest in my entire life, this is the moment I think of,” Wanzer said.

During the tournament, one of the players from the older level team suffered an injury, so Wanzer was asked to take her place. However, she was unaware that she would be competing in the final game for the championship title. “I’m sitting on the bench scared out of my mind. Then, they threw me in, and I ended up having a pretty good game,” said Wanzer.

She said she vividly remembers everyone storming the court at the sound of the buzzer and hoisting the first-place trophy as a team. “Everyone was cheering. We beat one of the best teams in the country. It was just insane that we ended up winning this entire tournament out of thousands of teams,” said Wanzer.

Currently, Wanzer is competing in her final high school basketball season as an Amherst Tiger. She said the team is doing very well, especially considering Covid-19 impacted their usual pre-season scheduling and training. “Basically, we stepped on the court, we had eight practices, and then we were playing together, which is so unlikely [for a non-Covid year],” Wanzer said.

The team, coached by Mike Chatelle, has a 12-3 record for the season and is ranked first in the Section VI Erie County II League. Wanzer said it would “be amazing to finish out on a win,” but she, ultimately, wants to cherish her final games with some of her best friends that she has been playing basketball with since third grade. “I want to get some of the post-season awards, but really, I just want to win and enjoy what I have left. I know the next step is going to be a lot of work, and it’s going to be really hard, so I just want to enjoy what high school basketball I have left,” she said.

During her career, Wanzer has won three sectional titles, has made All-Western New York 2nd team, and has been selected for All-ECIC Player of the Year. She said her personal accomplishments are very rewarding, but her team achievements are also very important to her. “It was exciting to be able to achieve awards both with my team and for myself,” said Wanzer.

Even though her time with the Amherst Tigers and I-90 team is coming to an end, Wanzer’s basketball career is far from over. Instead, she will be trading in her orange and black Tiger’s jersey for a green and white uniform, where she will be joining the Division I basketball team at Binghamton University. “I just can’t wait to have people that I’m so close with that all share the same passion for the sport that I love,” said Wanzer.

She committed to Binghamton in December of 2019, and Wanzer said she knew it was the place for her after an overnight recruiting trip to the university. “I got to talk to the players and coaches, and I realized ‘Oh my gosh this is where I want to be for the rest of my life,’” said Wanzer.

She said she “felt at home instantly” and loved the size of the school, the team, and the art program offered. Furthermore, she said the coaching staff is incredible and made her feel welcomed and wanted. “The coaches are amazing. I love talking to them… They literally feel like my family already,” Wanzer said.

However, collegiate basketball is not the only thing Wanzer is looking forward to at Binghamton. She said she is very excited to enroll in the university’s art program and pursue her passion for fashion. “I can’t wait to go and do classes and things that I actually like and feel passionate about,” said Wanzer.

During her freshman year at Binghamton, Wanzer is determined to be a reliable, valuable member of the team. “I want to be able to be someone that they can put in there and confidently know that I can help them, even if I’m young,” said Wanzer.
Likewise, Wanzer wants to help her coach win the conference and help her teammates succeed. She said that she is motivated to work hard and earn a spot that allows her to be as effective as she can be on the court.

“I really just want to be the best that I can be. If it means they throw me in there just to get rebounds, perfect, I’ll do that… but I really want to be able to step on the court right away and help my freshman year,” she said.

Wanzer said she is excited to be continuing her basketball career at Binghamton, and she is looking forward to being surrounded by a supportive and encouraging team. “I just want to enjoy my college experience and continue to work hard and learn from people who are older than me and who are more knowledgeable than me and just perfect what I love, which is basketball,” said Wanzer.

Wanzer’s passion for basketball has continued to grow over the past 12 years she has participated in the sport, and she can’t wait to see the many opportunities that await her at Binghamton University.

Author, Kelsey Childress
Photography and Editing by Vin Berbano
Executive Producer George Johnson

Written by Kelsey Childress

Kelsey Childress

Kelsey is a senior Journalism, Communication, and Psychology major at Canisius College. She is also captain of the women’s swim team. She’s from Lynchburg, Virginia, but has fallen in love with the Buffalo community. She is excited to combine her passion for journalism with her love for sports to produce the “Game Changers” series.

View All Articles by Kelsey Childress
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