From the piano to the paint, Ellie Schwartzman plays key role for Fox Chapel

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Wednesday, January 6, 2021 | 5:07 PM


Ellie Schwartzman is proficient at playing the piano, having studied and practiced the craft for more than a decade.

She takes lessons every week to keep her skills sharp.

“My whole family is very musically inclined,” said Schwartzman, a senior at Fox Chapel. “Music was a nice thing to have during covid, especially over the past couple of weeks with the (sports) shutdown. I play a couple of popular songs, but it’s mostly classical, mainly Beethoven or Bach.”

Schwartzman also hopes her skills are sharp on the court as a heart-and-soul member of the Foxes girls basketball team. The 6-foot power forward will help lead her team against Section 2-5A Mars on Saturday as part of the WPIAL and PIAA’s return to action after the three-week pause in athletic activities ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf intended to help slow the covid-19 spread.

“We’re really excited to play Saturday,” said Schwartzman, who scored a team-best 15 points in Fox Chapel’s 48-41 loss to Oakland Catholic in the season opener Dec. 11, one day before the shutdown went into effect.

“It’s a big game for us, so we’re trying to make sure we are prepared.”

Schwartzman said she and her teammates banded together during the break with workout regimens to stay focused on the return to team activities.

“There was a lot of conditioning in practice Monday to make sure we were where we needed to be,” she said. “We also just focused on stuff we struggled with against Oakland Catholic and worked to build on some of the positive things. It was a little rusty at times, but overall, it was a good practice.”

Schwartzman’s team mindset is centered on getting the Foxes, who dropped down from Class 6A in the offseason, back to the WPIAL playoffs for the third year in a row.

“We have experience back from last year, and we are working to mesh with a couple of newer players to the lineup and others who are getting more (varsity) minutes,” Schwartzman said. “It just comes down to making sure everyone is comfortable with their roles on the court. I think we have what it takes to challenge for the section title.”

Schwartzman’s personal focus is on building from a junior season in which she averaged 12 points and nearly 10 rebounds to help the Foxes earn the fourth playoff berth from Section 1-6A. They gave eventual WPIAL runner-up Bethel Park fits in a first-round game at North Hills before falling, 33-29.

Schwartzman was able to battle through ankle-injury issues to earn all-section first-team honors, as well as first-team recognition from the Valley News Dispatch.

She sprained the ankle again this summer at a practice with her AAU team and then again at an early practice with her Fox Chapel teammates.

“It’s not a bad sprain, but it’s just been an issue for a while,” Schwartzman said. “I get it taped and braced, but it’s not as bad as last year. I am happy with that, but it’s still frustrating to deal with and another obstacle to overcome.”

Schwartzman showed her on-court versatility against Oakland Catholic with a couple of 3-pointers in addition to her work in the paint.

“Ellie hit outside shots and was bringing the ball up the court,” Fox Chapel coach Marty Matvey said. “Last year, she was hesitant to shoot at times, but she can really shoot from the perimeter. She’s also a really good passer with good vision. She’s very unselfish. We like to see that versatility she has.”

Matvey said Schwartzman’s confidence in her game continues to ascend.

“The biggest thing we asked of her when we came on as a staff was to not doubt herself,” he said. “We wanted to make sure she knew that no matter the result of a play, she had the chance to come back and make the next great play.

“She knows that a lot of times, teams focus on trying to take her away as a factor in a game. She doesn’t get overwhelmed, and she knows she has quality teammates who can support her. She does what she can to give her team the best chance to win. That’s the heart of a leader.”

Schwartzman hit 75% of her foul shots last year and was strong from the line against Oakland Catholic. She said her unique one-handed foul shot, used since her sophomore year, continues to work for her.

“I started shooting it that way and found success with it, and it just stuck. It’s not a normal thing to see on the court, but it’s normal for me,” said Schwartzman, who sank 9 of 10 from the line in a key late-season section home win against Shaler that helped secure Fox Chapel’s playoff berth.

“When I have an off game with my foul shots, it’s frustrating because it’s something I should be able to control. So having a good game like (Shaler) is always a confidence booster.”

Schwartzman has garnered attention from some schools at the Division II and III levels, but, she said, she is focusing more on the academic side of things and plans to pursue a child and developmental psychology course of study at the University of Minnesota.

“This summer, it was a little hard because I was trying to process all of it and decide what I wanted to do,” she said. “After looking at everything, I decided my academics needed to come first for my future.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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