Originally created 04/09/06

Greenbrier's court 'Commando'



Subtract Michelle Swiec from the lineup, and things just wouldn't be the same for the Greenbrier Lady Wolfpack.

The record would suffer. So would the laughter on road trips.

A 5-foot-4 junior who's already seen as the best girls player in school history means that much.

"I'm sure there are a lot of great players in our area," Greenbrier coach Garrett Black said. "Hephzibah has at least two great ones. But the thing for us with Michelle is we had to have her. That's not just needing her to bring the ball up the court under pressure as our point guard. That's because of her energy on defense and the way she dives for loose balls. We had to have a good game from her or we'd struggle to beat average teams. If we don't squeeze everything out of Michelle, we're probably going to lose."

Swiec's contribution extends beyond statistics. It starts with the way she grabs a teammate and lets them know more effort is needed.

"Michelle turns into 'Commando Swiec' during a tight game," Greenbrier senior Melissa Lewis said. "Or she turns into 'Sergeant Swiec' sometimes. She's like, 'You go here. You go there. I'll go there. I'm going to pass it to you. Then you shoot it.' You just say 'Yes, ma'am,' when she's like that. Because things work out well for us when she gets like that."

That's an about-face from other moments. During her sophomore season, Swiec was late to a practice because teammate Sara Oland joined her in building a fort in the woods.

Her reason for being late to practice was because she was using power tools.

"That was a new one," Black said. "It was definitely not a dog eating her homework. A kid doesn't make something like that up unless it really happened."

Then there's a road trip. Swiec would be behind the plan to take one of Oland's socks and thread dental floss through it. Swiec and Oland would then dangle the game-used sock above the noses of those who made the mistake of falling asleep on the bus.

Those moments were part of her role change this year.

"She used to be a closed book," Lewis said. "I liked this new Michelle a lot more this year."

Swiec cut up more, giggled more and opened herself to be a leader.

"We called her 'Turtle' a lot this year because she came out of her shell," junior Brooke Jackson said. "She used to not say anything and was always so quiet."

That's one of her nicknames.

"We called her 'Noodle' because of how she'd slip and slide and noodle through the defense to the basket," Oland said.

Swiec kept her dribble once when she was on her knees and still crossed up a pair of defenders. She had 104 more free throw attempts than any other player, boy or girl, at one point during the season.

"It's the look I see on the other team's face when they are beating us," Swiec said. "I see that, and it's like they sort of are saying they're better than us. Or they've got us. I hate that look.

"The only thing on my mind when I see that is to wipe that look off all their faces."

That competitive streak comes out again when her 5-foot-4 height is mentioned. It might cause her to not get recruited.

"I look at North Carolina's Ivory Latta," Sweic said. "She's only 5-foot-6, but she's as big as any other player in college ball. That's because of the way she works out and lifts and trains and stretches the skills she does have. She transformed herself into becoming a big-time player.

"That's the way I want to be. I'm going to make people want to overlook my size because of everything else."

Meet Michelle Swiec


School: Greenbrier


Year: Junior


Position: Point guard


Ht./Wt: 5-foot-4/125 lbs.


All-area highlights: She averaged 17 points, 5 steals and 4.6 assists per game.


The big stat: Swiec was the heart of a team that set the school mark for wins.


Favorite car: Red Mustang Convertible


Favorite food: A Snickers candy bar or a beef taco from Monterrey


Favorite memory of the season: Bus rides back from away games


Favorite nickname: Noodle


Favorite play: Taking off on the fast break


Favorite player: Ivory Latta


Favorite song: SOS by Rhianna


Favorite TV show: The Real World


Favorite vacation spot: Bahamas