Vedvei breaks NAIA national career steals record
By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- South Dakota School of Mines senior Melanie Vedvei has been committing grand larceny and getting away with it for the past four years but it finally caught up with her --- on the basketball court that is.
The 5-foot-7-inch guard for the Lady Hardrockers recorded nine steals over the weekend during Dakota Athletic Conference action against Mayville State, N.D., and Dakota State, S.D., which pushed her grand total over the top for the NAIA national career steals record. So far in her four-year tenure at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, Vedvei has 416 steals as a Lady Hardrocker. The old record, held by Joy Wilkinsen of Malone, Ohio, was 411 from 1999 to 2003.
“It’s something I have never even thought about. I didn’t even know that I was close to (the record) until after our last home weekend when someone mentioned it,” Vedvei said. “It’s a huge honor, but it is one of those things that is a honor for our whole team.”
The Lake Preston, S.D., native holds the NAIA record, along with every SD Mines school steals category record, include career steals, steals in a season (124 in 2006-07) and steals in a game (11 vs. Holy Names during the 2004-05 season).
“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Lady Hardrocker head coach Barb Felderman. “I think she is one of the best athletes in the NAIA. In fact, a guy this past weekend told me he thought Mel could excel very well at the (NCAA) DII and DI levels.”
The Industrial Engineering Major, who was very humble about the honor, said she is a product of the Hardrockers’ style of play. And the system the team execute each game benefits her and has given her opportunities to nab balls. So much so that Vedvei currently is first in the NAIA for steals per game (4.36). In the DAC she has tallied 83 so far, which puts her 25 ahead of second place Giuli Varriano of Jamestown College.
“It’s the way that the whole team plays defense --- pressure defense. That creates a lot of steals and that’s one of the things we are known for --- a lot of steals,” Vedvei said. “We always have been, ever since I have been here. We have pretty much always been in the top of the conference (as steals leader).”
That statement holds true this season as the Lady ‘Rockers top the Dakota Athletic Conference list with 269 steals. That number is 52 more than second-place Jamestown College, N.D., who has 217. The team is also nationally ranked in NAIA Div. II, coming in at sixth place for steals per game with 14.26. “We try to teach them to see, not just the small little world that, themselves, are in, but the entire picture (on the court) as a whole team,” Felderman said. “Being academic kids, they like that challenge and they like to play those things out.”
Even in high school Vedvei said she was given the opportunity to be the criminal when it comes to playing defense --- which spilled over to her college career. During that time she has been able to hone her grand larceny skills and react to what opposing players would do before they do it.
“It’s anticipation and the experience of knowing (what to do),” Vedvei said. “You kind of get a feel of what (opponents) are going to do, and in certain situations, the move that they are going to make --- especially when it comes down to reverse pivots.”
Felderman said Vedvei is a complete player both offensively and defensively, which is probably the main reason she’s received the conference MVP the past two years as well as a NAIA First Team All American accolade last season.
“She has a love for the game,” Felderman said. “She is able to read her opponents very well. On offense she sees the court to distribute (the ball) or make her move, whether it would be to take a shot, or penetrate. Then on defense she has that same vision. She can see the whole thing evolving. She has great, quick hands.”
If earning the national record weren’t enough, Vedvei also moved into second place all time on the Lady Hardrocker scoring list. She currently has a grand total of 1,949 points as a SD Mines Hardrocker. She moves ahead of Kori Hoff, who had 1,934 from 1994-98 and is second only to Jami Barroclough who had 2,422 points as a ‘Rocker from 1996 to 2000. When the season started, Vedvei was in sixth place all time. She has eclipsed some outstanding female basketball players, including her older sister Stacy. Vedvei has cashed in for 376 points so far this season, with more to come.
“I didn’t think that’s where I would be at. It’s nothing that we ever really talk about or think about, until it actually happens. You hear about it and then (you become aware of it),” Vedvei said. “But it’s another big honor to get.”
Vedvei added that it’s more about winning the game each weekend and again Felderman agreed.
“We never address points --- ever. I rarely know what’s going on as far as records. It’s all about getting a win and playing together,” the coach added.
So with nine games left in the regular season, there is no telling what Vedvei’s final statistical tally will be and what other recognition the talented point guard will receive. She is just going to play one game at a time and take whatever comes her way.
On that note, she has already received the DAC player of the week honors multiple times this season in arguably one of the toughest conference in the NAIA.
But don’t ask Vedvei about it.
“I don’t even know how many times it’s been,” Vedvei said who is obviously more concerned about winning games than earning awards.
But for the record, Vedvei has been awarded DAC Player of the Week four times this year ---- it’s been available seven times this season.
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