GREAT BARRINGTON -- Even David Collopy, the athletic director at Bard College at Simon's Rock, will concede that seeing one of his athletes featured in the "Faces In The Crowd" section of Sports Illustrated would be considered a long shot.
"We aren't exactly an athletic powerhouse," Collopy said.
But a few weeks ago, there was Bard center Pearl Weggler's photo in that iconic column. Weggler, a freshman from Northfield, Vt., had not only played in both the boys and girls game for the college December 2, but was also the leading scorer in the girls' win and the boys' loss at Landmark College, a small two-year school in Putney, Vt.
Weggler scored 26 points for the Llamas in the girls' 45-30 win, and 20 more in a 60-40 loss to Landmark. She played all 80 minutes.
"We pretty much controlled the girls' game," said the 5-10 Weggler, "and we felt pretty good about the boys' game. We were pretty close until they pulled away late in the game."
This is not as incongruous as it seems. Weggler was one of the better players in Vermont while playing at Northfield High School. She transferred to Simon's Rock after completing all her academic requirements as a junior. She was poised to become a 1,000-point scorer at Northfield.
Collopy believes that Weggler, also a dean's list student with a 4.0 GPA, is one of the best athletes ever to enroll at the school, and surely its best basketball player ever. She averaged 27 points per game this year, which was 68
At Simon's Rock, academics takes a far more prominent role than in most colleges. Although the college offers basketball as a varsity sport, such is the academic workload for the students that coaches routinely have to deal with players not being able to make games.
"If a coach can't accept that," said Collopy, "they probably won't like [working at] Simon's Rock."
Soccer and swimming are also varsity sports. But the teams all play in the fall, Collopy said. The seasons end in early December. This year, the girls and boys basketball teams both went 4-2.
"Road games can be a problem," said Collopy. "For us, recruiting consists of driving around the day of the game, trying to find players."
The day of the Landmark doubleheader, basketball coach Arty Epstein had a problem. When the two teams convened to leave, Epstein discovered he had only eight players: five girls and three boys.
"We drove around campus for a while, and Arty was stopping kids, saying, ‘Please, you're kind of tall, would you like to come with us for a game?' " recalled Weggler. "But no one wanted to come."
The initial plan, Collopy said, was for the Llamas to play the girls game and work out something, perhaps a scrimmage, for the boys. But after talking it over with Weggler and point guard Katrina Von Burg, Epstein decided to let them play in the boys game too.
Two games in one day was nothing new for either player. Von Burg was an All-Frontier League guard for Villanova Prep in California, Last season, she led the Wildcats to the state finals. Von Burg recalled playing eight games in one day as a youngster in an AAU tournament.
That day, she also played 80 minutes for the boys and girls. Weggler was glad to have her.
"I was on the fence about playing basketball here," said Weggler. "But when I met Katrina, I was really excited about the possibility of playing with her."
Assists are not tallied at Simon's Rock, nor are steals. Collopy believes that Von Burg easily led the team in both categories this season.
So, they played. The girls' game was easy. The Landmark coach was initially uncomfortable about playing a co-ed game, but eventually agreed. The boys lost, but Weggler pointed out that in a game at Simon's Rock a few weeks earlier, the boys were blown out by about 40 points.
"We felt good about doing better this time," said Von Burg.
The part of the story that may seem odd is that two clearly accomplished players have opted to come to a school that only plays six to eight games a season, sometimes has to scramble for players and only practices once or twice a week.
For both, the answer is obvious: academics.
"I didn't come here for basketball, obviously," said Von Burg. "I came here for the quality of the school.
"After I left Northfield, someone asked me, ‘How could you leave? You had a chance to be a 1,000-point scorer.' But here, I have a chance to learn from fantastic teachers, take interesting classes and have incredible experiences," said Weggler. "What's 1,000 points compared to that?"