The legend of Jurcenko
Of Jefferson's many great players, Anita Jurcenko remains the standard by which they are judged
By KARL PEARSON
Everyone has a different perspective of history
"I'm very honored," Anita Jurcenko said of her induction into the second Hall of Fame class of the Ashtabula County Basketball Foundation. "It's great to be remembered after 12 years."
Then, the notion the 1992 Jefferson High School graduate becomes easily the youngest member of the Hall of Fame at age 30 is addressed. That will happen on Sunday at the second annual ACBF banquet at the Conneaut Human Resource Center.
But she, now known as Anita Jurcenko Moore, has a humorous sidelight to that.
"I went to a game this year and (Jefferson coach) Rod (Holmes) took me in and introduced me to the team," Jurcenko recalled with a laugh. "He asked them, ‘Do you know who this is ' They finally admitted they didn't. When he told them, one of them did say they thought that's who I was, but she didn't want to be wrong and embarrass herself."
But she is not a mystery to her contemporaries or elders.
"I'm a pharmaceutical rep (for the Erie-based Janssen Co., a division of Johnson and Johnson)," Moore said. "Some doctors from Ashtabula came through at a convention I was at. I said hello to one of them and it turned out to be Dr. (C.K.) Brandeberry (from Rock Creek). I told him I was from Jefferson,
but he didn't recognize my married name. When I told him I was Anita Jurcenko, he knew who I was right away. We had a real nice conversation."
Certainly, Moore's place in Ashtabula County basketball history is secure. During her four-year career at Jefferson, she started all 92 games the Falcons played. In her senior year, she became only the second county player to earn Ohio Player of the Year honors, joining previous Hall of Famer Diane Davis of Ashtabula. She was also named an honorable-mention All-American by USA Today that year.
Twice, she led Jefferson teams to the Division II regional tournament and guided the Falcons to four straight sectional titles and three Northeastern Conference championships. Moore scored 1,468 points in her high-school career. Her teams won 54 straight games at one point in her career — still an area record for basketball.
Perhaps most importantly, during Moore's four-year career, her teams were a spectacular 81-11 (.880).
However, her defensive accomplishments are cause for even greater renown. Her 639 career steals still rank third in Ohio history, her 257 steals her senior year were a state record at the time and still ranks second. Twice, she had 19 steals in a game, which is still the single-game state record.
"I'm still first in steals," she marveled. "That's amazing."
Running the numbers seems even a bit embarrassing to Moore.
"It's flattering when people remember you," she said. "But that wasn't why I played. I just loved to play. The thing I'm proudest about was I don't think I ever left anything on the court. But it is good people remember you."
As with most female players prior to the 1990s, Moore really didn't get into formal basketball until junior high.
"We didn't have organized basketball until seventh grade," he said. "I played a lot in our driveway with my brothers, Pete, Scott and Steve. I was the youngest, so I was the tagalong. I grew up wanting to do everything the boys did. Kathie Watts was my first coach in seventh grade."
That applied to softball and volleyball, too.
"I loved to play everything," Moore said. "I played everything as hard as I could. I loved the sport I was playing that season. I had the luxury of playing three sports. It always gave me something to look forward to. I wonder how burnt out I would have been if I only concentrated on one sport."
Obviously, she made an impact immediately at the varsity level. But Moore really didn't realize basketball would be her ticket to bigger things until her junior year.
"I think making first-team All-Ohio as a junior kind of gave me an idea," she said. "I think I realized then basketball could open doors for me."
Attendance at several high-level basketball camps and involvement with some super-talented summer teams also helped.
"I went to the All-Star Camp in New Jersey," Moore said. "I also went to the AAU nationals with a team that was organized by (current Regina coach) Pat Diulus. I played with Vonda Ward (who went to Tennessee) and girls that went to a lot of other big-time colleges. It was phenomenal."
Moore drew plenty of interest, too.
"I was looking at the Ivy League," she said. "I could have played anywhere in the (Mid-American Conference). The only place that didn't show a lot of interest was the Big Ten. Nancy Darsch from Ohio State said, ‘I like that Jurcenko girl, but I don't think she's big enough (5-foot-5)."
But she opted for Wright State.
"I wanted to go to a program that was building and where I'd play a lot," Moore said. "The coach, Terry Hall, had been at Kentucky and was coming back.
Several matters from her high school days still resonate with Moore.
"Making (state) Player of the Year my senior year was pretty special," she said. "The first time we went to regionals my sophomore year was such a big event. I remembered how special it was the first time Jefferson went when I was in eighth grade (1987-88).
"And the relationship I had with my teammates was so important."
The next level
But the dream went largely unrealized at Wright State.
"It was such a tough environment there," Moore said. "(Hall) was dying of cancer and there were other issues. The coach was always in a situation where she was battling for her life, when your parents send you to school expecting the coach to be a mother figure."
In ways, Moore feels unfulfilled from her time there. But there were other compensations.
"I had always been so goal-oriented," she said. "I think it taught me there's more to life than basketball. With the coach's issues, we had to learn to function on our own. I decided to stick it out."
There were compensations.
"I got into the (Reserve Officers Training) program, which helped me get into the military, which helped me meet my husband (Dan). And it's tough to beat getting a free education and the opportunities you get in the business world when your employers see you played at a Division I school."
The Moores are also blessed with one child, 4-year-old Jared. They are expecting their second child in early May.
She always knew she had the support of her parents, Peter and Esther Jurcenko, who still reside in Jefferson.
"My dad vowed he'd make all my games my senior year," Moore said. "I think he only missed two or three."
Her time in the military gave Moore something back that she felt she lacked during her college basketball career. That's why she cherishes her time in the armed forces so much.
"I'm all about teamwork," Moore said. "It's so important in everything you do. I saw that even in my job interview for (her current) job.
"It was especially true in the military. I joined because I knew I'd be part of a great team again, like it was in high school."
Wright State also gave her a greater appreciation of what she had experienced in Jefferson, starting with her high school coach, the legendary Rod Holmes, whose 329 career wins (322 at Jefferson) are the most in area girls basketball history.
"It was great to have his influence for four years," Moore stated. "I'm amazed at how he was able to get so much out of people. He knows so much about motivating and leading young kids. He knows how to get the most out of each individual.
"I found out there's a big difference between a coach and a mentor/leader. Rod is so good at what he does."
An already-deep appreciation for her home area was also enhanced.
"Everything Jefferson provided me with was well worth it," Moore said. "The town always came out and supported us. We got great coverage in the papers. That's one of the reasons I love team sports so much."
Several basic truths from her success in basketball and other sports still hold true for Moore.
"It taught me to be a hard worker, be very disciplined and I learned how important it is to be around other people and dedicate yourself to working together," she said.
Now, she's determined to pass those traits on to her children. The first steps have already been taken at the Moores' home in Fairview, Pa.
"We've already poured a pad (for a basketball court) on the side of our house," she chuckled.