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Tartan junior grading out well

By AARON PAITICH, Special to the Star Tribune, 01/11/13, 8:45PM CST


Tia Elbert tops the state in scoring, but excels in classwork, too.

Tartan junior Tia Elbert went up for shot at a Titans practice on Jan. 7. Photo by Renée Jones Schneider • reneejones@startribune.com

Tartan's Tia Elbert is having a remarkable year on the basketball court, but recently caught a tough break in the classroom.

The junior said she received her first-ever A-minus. The class? Calculus.

"A very rigorous course," said Elbert, who is being sought by a number of Division I schools for her skills on the basketball court and smarts in the classroom.

Elbert is the top student in her class at Tartan, something that comes from an important figure in her life.

"My mom," said Elbert, whose favorite subject is math but sees herself majoring in business in college. "She always pushed me to get good grades. Since kindergarten, I've always been on top of things."

She's on top of her basketball game, too. Elbert is averaging a state-best 36.2 points per game. She surpassed the 2,000-point milestone against Kasson-Mantorville a couple of weeks ago after scoring 42 in a Titans victory. Elbert's season-high 46 points came against Duluth East on Dec. 22.

"She's an impact player," coach Charlita Williamson said. "Her defense comes and initiates the offense. She can play all positions. She knows the game."

One change in this year's lineup is moving Elbert, a varsity player since eighth grade, away from the point guard position. Eighth-grader Anissa Krause has stepped into that role and, with Elbert playing off the ball more, it's helped the team a great deal.

"She gets it and she just goes," Williamson said of Elbert in her new freedoms.

Williamson's phone started ringing just before this season began and it hasn't stopped. Elbert has received offers from the Gophers, Mississippi, Illinois State, Creighton, DePaul, Drake and others.

But the star scorer is just as humble as she is effective.

"I've been making a lot of shots, I guess," Elbert added. "Or maybe the rim has just been nice to me."

On top of it all, she leads the team in assists, with 6.2 per game.

"You have a player like that -- leading in assists and scoring -- it tells you that she's a team player," Williamson said.

Elbert tallied 15 assists in the Titans' season opener against St. Paul Highland Park. It's something she takes pride in.

"I love to dish the ball. As soon as I see an opening, I'm giving it to her right there," she said. "Assists are much more important to me than the points."

The Titans are putting together a solid season, starting the year 8-1 before hitting a three-game skid. They stepped up their commitment in the off-season, rededicating themselves on shooting, conditioning, work in the weight room and old-fashioned team bonding.

"That's the difference between last year and this year," Williamson said.

Tartan has improved defensively as well. To make a serious run toward the postseason, Elbert has stressed team play and she leads by example.

"We just have to stay together," Elbert said. "We have to keep our team chemistry up there. Our team gets along great outside the court and on the court. As long as we keep that bond, it will help us to play better on the court."

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