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Meet the freshman guard that coaches call ‘lightning in a bottle’

Bradley Women’s Basketball Halli Poock. Photo Courtesy of Bradley Athletics

On Nov. 16, Bradley faced former Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) foe Loyola-Chicago. Late in the first quarter, freshman point guard Halli Poock checked into the game. Down by 10, the Braves needed a spark to keep the victory in reach. 

Poock made her presence felt immediately upon entering the game. The 5-foot-4-inch guard dished out assists, knocked down threes and took five charges in her first appearance with significant minutes. Since then, she has become one of the few shining stars in an otherwise gloomy season.

Poock hails from Waterloo, Iowa, a city two hours outside Des Moines. Poock fell in love with basketball at an early age. 

“I grew up playing basketball with boys,” Poock said. “It made me a little ahead of the game. I had to learn to play small against bigger, more athletic players. It challenged me a little bit. I had to figure out my advantages.” 

Poock’s parents, Melissa and John, never held her back. 

“I’m really close with all my family, but none of them played sports,” Poock said. “My parents have always been really good about letting me try things I want to.” 

Their decision to let Poock try basketball turned out to be a good one. 

Poock attended Iowa powerhouse Waterloo West High School, where she played varsity for her entire high school career and left an outstanding legacy as a Wahawk. She finished with a record of 92-12, was selected to the All-State first team twice and holds the record for points, assists, steals and three-pointers made. 

As an upperclassman, Poock became a highly touted recruit. In her senior season, she averaged 22 points and four assists. 

“A lot of mid-majors in the conference were recruiting me,” Poock said. “I had [offers from] Green Bay, Drake, Omaha and a few others.” 

Poock came onto Bradley’s radar well before she graduated from high school. Former assistant coach Leti Lerma spoke with head coach Kate Popovec-Goss about the possibility of recruiting Poock. 

Halli Poock handling the ball. Photo via Halli Poock/Instagram

“Finding Halli wasn’t the issue,” Popovec-Goss said. “The hardest thing was recruiting her because she was high on a lot of people’s radar. She was a top 100 player in her senior year. I was worried there were too many people recruiting her.”

“Sometimes I say it’s better to be lucky than good,” Popovec-Goss added. “I think we got a little lucky with HP [Poock]. She and I connected pretty instantly.”

Ultimately, Poock decided to join the Braves and become part of Popovec-Goss’ rebuild. 

“I just really like coach Pop,” Poock said. “I like what she is trying to do in this program. She’s trying to turn it around, and I’m here to help her do that.” 

Since the game against Loyola, Poock has been doing her best to help out as much as she can in her first year on the Hilltop.

The rising star is averaging 12.8 points, 2.2 assists and shooting 35% from behind the arc. Poock’s role has increased due to injuries to junior Kaylen Nelson and senior Daija Powell. Since entering conference play, Poock is third in three-pointers made, seventh in points scored and ninth in assists.

Poock’s performance this season may come as a surprise to some Braves fans, but her coaches expected this of her at some point this season. 

“I think we have a little lightning in the bottle with HP,” Popovec-Goss said. “Whenever you get highly recruited freshmen, you don’t know what the adjustment to the college level looks like.” 

“I was waiting to see how long the adjustment would take. I felt like all she needed was one good game. That happened vs. Loyola,” Popovec-Goss added. “It wasn’t a matter of whether it would happen, but when.”

Despite the freshman’s stellar play, Bradley is 5-15. To put this season into perspective, the Braves have already lost more games in one season than Poock lost her entire high school career. 

“It’s definitely been different,” Poock said. “I’m used to winning quite a bit. It’s been an adjustment. Coach Pop tries to break it down as growth throughout the season. What we want to do in the end is build a winning program. Every game we’re growing and trying to get closer to our ultimate goal.” 

As the Bradley women’s basketball team tries to rebuild a program that made the NCAA tournament just three seasons ago, the staff needs to continue to bring in and develop players like Poock.

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