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Savannah Kluesner: star player, future coach?

<p>Savannah Kluesner attempts a layup during Miami&#x27;s 75-62 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons Feb. 23, 2019, at Millett Hall. Kluesner posted an 11-point, 14-rebound double-double.</p>

Savannah Kluesner attempts a layup during Miami's 75-62 victory over the Bowling Green Falcons Feb. 23, 2019, at Millett Hall. Kluesner posted an 11-point, 14-rebound double-double.

When asked about her plans after graduation, Savannah Kluesner said she was still weighing a few options.

Coach DeUnna Hendrix, however, knows exactly which path the senior forward should take.

“She doesn’t know she’s gonna coach yet,” Hendrix said.

The traits that would make Kluesner a natural fit in the coaching ranks are the same qualities the 6-foot-2 forward uses to star on the court. Her basketball IQ and versatility allow her to take on different roles in the RedHawks’ offense. 

“I could put her just about anywhere on the floor,” Hendrix said. “We have offenses where she’s at the elbow, where’s she at the short corner, where’s she on the block, where’s she’s on the trail, so a little bit of everything.”

“A little bit of everything” is a good way to describe Kluesner’s game. Her 15.5 points per game is second on the team, and she gets her points in a variety of ways, scoring from the post, in the pick and roll, and on mid-range jumpers. Because of her scoring abilities, Kluesner often draws double teams, which allows her to pass the ball out to open teammates.

She is an inside presence on both ends, leading the team in both rebounding and blocks for the second consecutive year. Her long arms wreak havoc on defense, allowing her to get into passing lanes for deflections and make the other team think twice about driving into the lane.

Since the start of her career at Miami, Kluesner has gone from a quiet freshman to being more vocal on and off the court. Some of Kluesner’s fondest memories at Miami are hanging out with her teammates, and their camaraderie on the floor makes their bond away from basketball that much stronger.

“We’re pretty goofy off the court,” Kluesner said. “... Going through the grind every day together just makes us that much closer.”

One teammate Kluesner has grown particularly close with is senior guard Lauren Dickerson, Miami’s leading scorer. Dickerson and Kluesner are the team’s only two seniors who have played at Miami all four years. Although the pair was shy as freshmen, they both grew a lot and became closer to each other.

“Me and Lauren are pretty close,” Kluesner said. “We’ve been through a lot, just having three different (coaching) staffs and having to go through all that change, so having each other has been huge for both of us.”

The most recent change happened last spring, as Hendrix was hired to replace Megan Duffy, who left Miami to become the head coach at Marquette. This season, Hendrix’s first at Miami, Kluesner has helped her coach by being a quick learner and an example for her teammates to follow.

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“Her ability to translate from a coaching perspective to a player perspective helps on and off the floor,” Hendrix said. “But at the end of the day, she’s able to apply it, as well. So just being as talented as she is, people see her do it, so it’s an easier message for them, I guess.”

With a new system under Hendrix, Kluesner has thrived. After a breakout junior season in which she was named second-team All-MAC, Kluesner has somehow stepped up her play, increasing her scoring average by more than two points per game. 

She’s also blocked 44 shots this year, almost twice as many as last year. Kluesner has a real shot at becoming the single-season Miami leader in blocked shots and double-doubles by the end of the season, needing just 12 blocks and three double-doubles to accomplish both feats.

The senior forward is second in the Mid-American Conference in blocks per game and third in rebounds per game. She is also fifth in total points and sixth in field goal percentage. 

Simply put, Kluesner is not only one of the best players on her team, but in the MAC as well.

The senior has also improved her leadership ability, tapping into her coaching potential and becoming more of a vocal leader after Miami lost three starters from last year’s team. 

“I think I’ve really developed, especially in the past year, just, like, being more of a leader on the floor and off the floor, too,” Kluesner said.

By the time Kluesner’s career in Oxford comes to a close, her name will be all over Miami’s record books. She’s currently fourth in career blocked shots and double-doubles, as well as seventh in career rebounds. With five games left in the regular season, as well as the MAC tournament, Kluesner has plenty of time to move up in the rankings.

Since taking over as Miami’s head coach, Hendrix has learned a lot about her players. When asked what she’s learned about Kluesner during the season, Hendrix had high praise.

“At the end of the day, she is the ultimate competitor,” Hendrix said. “She wants to win anything and everything.”

Competitiveness, IQ, leadership: these are the traits that make Kluesner a great player.

They’re also the traits that could make her a great coach.