Jill Rademacher, engineering student and Vermont women's basketball player, was just five when she tossed her first basketball. "There was nice dirt and a hoop against our barn," she says. Little did she know that basketball would later earn her a college scholarship to the University of Vermont.
As she grew up in Holdinford, Minnesota, Jill played as often as she could and whenever she could even in the winter with gloves on. "Whenever I got a chance to shoot," she says, "I shot." By the summer of her sophomore year, she was traveling to Australia to play on the state team as the representative of her home high school, Holdinford. Then in April 2004, between her junior and senior years, Jill played in a tournament in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and was spotted by UVM coach Sharon Dawley. In August, Dawley contacted Jill to ask her to come to the University of Vermont for an official visit.
Jill had no intention of relocating to Vermont but she had never been East, so she decided to accept the offer to come and see Vermont. "Once I was here," she says, "I just fell in love with the coaches, the community, and the area. Vermont's mountains and Lake Champlain were just amazing! Minnesota has a few bluffs, but I'd never seen mountains like these before."
Jill began school at UVM in the fall of 2005 and had a great first season of basketball playing on the UVM team, but in her sophomore year, she faced a serious challenge. During a sledding weekend that was supposed to be a break from basketball, she found herself heading into a stand of trees as she plummeted down a hill in Derby Vermont. She threw herself off the inner tube she was riding but her right leg hit a tree, spinning her around and through more trees. When she finally came to a stop, both legs were broken.
Despite this serious injury, Jill was determined to remain in her UVM courses. For four weeks, she traveled to classes in Votey Hall in a wheelchair, which provided her with a learning experience she didn't expect. "People look at you differently when you are in a wheelchair," she says, "and buildings are very challenging to access."
Told she would never play basketball again, Jill beat the odds and returned to the game in 2007, scoring four points right before Christmas. In 2008, she injured her left shoulder and was again told her basketball days were over, but she successfully returned to the court in 2009. Unfortunately, a fall on ice during the spring semester resulted in torn ligaments in her left wrist, which kept her from playing in the NCAA Basketball Tournament at the University of Connecticut.
But Jill Rademacher is undaunted by adversity. She will receive a BS degree in mechanical engineering from the UVM College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences in May 2009, and has applied to the post-baccalaureate pre-med program at UVM.
In her fifth grade scrapbook under "What I want to be when I grow up," she wrote: "A carpenter, a mechanical engineer, or an orthopedic surgeon." Carpentry is one of the hobbies she loves. And now, after four years of mechanical engineering, medical school is the next challenge she will happily meet.