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‘Unstoppable’: That‘s Salvatori

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‘Unstoppable’: That‘s Salvatori

Aaron Viner courier staff

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When opposing coaches game plan against Michele Salvatori, they should remember to plant a tree.

Trying to come up with a workable strategy against Salvatori often results in large piles of crumpled-up paper, because it isn’t easy coming up with a successful plan to stop the Western Illinois forward.

“Michele has a ton of natural ability,” said first-year Leathernecks head coach JD Gravina said of his talented junior.  “She can be a matchup nightmare — shooting the three-ball, attacking off the dribble, posting up, playing in transition. (And) at times, (she) has been our best offensive rebounder.”

Salvatori’s contributions have helped Western defy preseason pollsters’ expectations. Although the team had been pegged to finish last in the 10-team Summit League, the Leathernecks (11-16, 7-9) are currently in a three-way tie for fifth place.

Salvatori said she enjoy all aspects of the game, not just scoring. 

“I’d say I’m an all-around player,” Salvatori said.  “I like getting assists and getting rebounds and working hard on both ends.  I’m really good at playing with other people.” 

Teammate Brittany Demery, a senior forward, knows that it’s all about confidence for Salvatori.

“She’s very athletic,” Demery said.  “She can dribble, she can shoot, and (she can) jump higher than anyone on the court, and that’s what she brings to the table.  Once she gets in the mood and flow of believing in herself, she’s unstoppable.” 

Gravina said that Salvatori has the capability to become a star.

“Michele has the potential that when she gets after it, the team responds to that,” Gravina said.  “She’s got natural leadership ability and the team can follow that.  She’s a junior, but it’s her first year playing for me, and she’s still working toward bringing that high energy.” 

This season, Salvatori has had to get adjusted to the style of offense Gravina coaches, but she said she knows it’s something in which she can excel.

“I’ve been able to play more of my own type of basketball,” Salvatori said.  “It’s more of a relaxed-type of offense.” 

The Rock Falls, Ill. native started Western’s first 20 games this season, and through 27 games, is having her best season as a Leatherneck.

Salvatori is fourth on the team in scoring at 9.1 points per game, behind seniors Sadie Webb (14.9), Valencia Kelly (11.3) and junior Saule Kontautaite (9.8).

Salvatori also leads the team with 6.2 rebounds per game, with Demery second at 4.9.

While at Newman Central Catholic High School (Sterling, Ill.), Salvatori lettered in basketball, volleyball and softball. But when it came to choosing which sport to focus on in college, Salvatori said it was easy to decide.

“I felt more comfortable with basketball, because it was what I really loved doing,” Salvatori said.

She visited a few other universities, but said that it was a matter of family ties and the feel of Macomb that brought her to Western.

“I went on a couple other visits to Cleveland State, and the University of Illinois-Chicago,” Salvatori said, “But my mother had come here and played softball, volleyball and basketball.  It just felt like home here.”

Next season, Salvatori will be a senior leader on the team, and she said she knows she will need to groom the younger players into this system.

“It’s not just me as a senior, but all the others,” Salvatori said. “We are going to help out new people coming in, and get them used to the system.” 

Demery compared Salvatori to senior Sadie Webb, who isn’t the loudest on the court, but as a leader, doesn’t need to be.

“She’ll bring a quiet presence,” Demery said of Salvatori.  “Sometimes what she brings (on the court) is very quiet.  She’s not boisterous, but more of a lead-by-example-type leader.”

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‘Unstoppable’: That‘s Salvatori