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  • Emma Hurley

UHSP's Grace Beyer Is One Happy Eutectic



High school senior Grace Beyer stood at the free throw line, alone in the gym.

Her father’s words echoed in her mind, louder with every shot. One stuck out to her.

Perfection.

Grace suddenly paused, ceasing her methodical rhythm.

She wondered if she could make it.

Swish.

She knew deep down she could, but what if she didn’t want to?

She wasn’t happy. Or was she?

Her mind raced with all she had learned. Everything had led up to this point.

Grace shook her head and looked back up at the rim.

200 more shots to go.

Basketball Brothers

Grace desired nothing more than to beat them. “Them” refers, of course, to her two brothers, Daniel and Brian.

Growing up in the small town of Appleton, Wisconsin, six-year-old Grace attended her older brothers’ basketball practices. They even let her participate in the drills. Grace sprinted alongside the boys, trying to keep up while dribbling a ball nearly half her size down the court.

They constantly slaughtered her.


And she loved it.

Well, she hated losing to them, but the experience ignited her competitive nature.

Her brothers’ ruthlessness on the court actually drove her love for basketball. She watched them spend hours shooting in the gym, and she followed. Every satisfying swoosh of the net reminded young Grace that practice makes perfect.

“There weren’t a lot of times when I didn’t go to the gym,” she said. In other words, she played basketball seven days a week.

Every day, Grace entered through the doors of the local YMCA with feelings of determination and excitement. In the gym, often accompanied by her dad, she put up shot after shot. Though she felt the sweat dripping down her face, she wouldn’t let herself quit.

Keep pushing.

“I never really remember a time Grace was ever not playing basketball,” her brother Brian claims.

Her hard work paid off. She learned to dribble, pass, and shoot even better than some of the older kids.

Still not enough. More dedication and seemingly endless hours of practice needed to try to beat her brothers in one on one: Grace vs. Brian and Grace vs. Daniel.

Slaughtered again. Then again. Then again. Then . . . Down goes Brian! Down goes Daniel!

Childhood goal accomplished.

Now on top of daily training in the gym, Grace swam competitively. It built up her endurance and strength, and she “loved how hard it was.”


Despite this, she loved something much more: playing basketball. Elementary-age Grace decided to not only make basketball her favorite sport, but to be the best at it.

She started AAU in third grade, and her advanced skills allowed her to play up a level.

She thought back to her hours of practice as she eagerly waited for her coaches to sub her into games, for her chance to show off her hard-earned skills. She watched the scoreboard from the bench as the minutes of each quarter ticked down, but she slowly became defeated. She had proved herself to be just as good as, if not better than, the older girls, but the coaches barely played her.

Grace decided that she hated AAU. Her hard work made no difference, and she felt it was all a waste.

Did nine-year-old Grace really have to change her life’s passion already? Eight years old seems a bit too early for a midlife crisis.

Her dad, on the other hand, wasn’t going to let Grace’s doubts stand in the way of her basketball dreams.

And he did not raise a quitter.

He reminded her of her goals and implored her to at least stick it out for one more year. It was a big decision for reluctant Grace. Next season came and she . . . was back on the court. And with a completely new squad.

She finally fit in, she got to play, and most of all, she had fun, a lot of fun. Turns out, Grace loved AAU.

However, a new problem arose in middle school: Grace’s brothers stopped playing basketball. Her biggest motivators, not to mention role models, quit the sport that brought them together. Where would she find the drive to learn everything about basketball and become great?

Grace practiced alone in the driveway; her brothers’ absence took away a huge part of the game she had enjoyed for years. Yet again, she felt unsure about her once-bright future with the sport and wondered if she should keep going. She didn’t want to do it all alone.

Working Hard, Thanks to Dad

Grace’s dad knew almost nothing about basketball. He realized, though, that Grace needed his help to achieve the greatness she desired. So, the two constantly trained in the gym or driveway, studied film, and attended as many games they could. He taught her the importance of dedication and consistency.

“He did a lot of YouTube research and always talked to anyone that knew more about basketball than he did,” Grace said.

He had coached her school team throughout elementary and middle school, but when her brothers quit, he began to push her even harder, trying his best to keep her motivated.

As she began to take basketball more seriously in junior high school, Grace’s goal of becoming a great player morphed into something more. She knew she could actually make basketball her future. A thought crossed her mind; she wanted to play in college, or, even better, go D1.

Her dad wanted that for her as well, but maybe a little too much at times.

One day in the gym, he instructed her to make 500 free-throws, making at least 9 out of 10.

Or else that set of 10 shots didn’t count.

Perfection.

She made it to about 350.

“I just couldn’t do it anymore… 350 free throws shooting at 90 percent should be enough.”

So, she quit.

Well, sort of. Not really though. She came back the next day. How else would she make it to D1?

Another time, when it was just the two of them, Grace’s dad thought she wasn’t working hard enough. She thought she was. He knew she wasn’t.

Perfection.

Frustrated, he grabbed the ball and gently tossed it in the air.

No, he’s not really going to…

And then kicked it. All the way across the gym.

“I called my mom right after and cried to her,” Grace admits. Grace could always rely on her mom to help her think positively and understand why her dad acted certain ways. He did everything for a reason.

Moments like these taught Grace a valuable lesson. If she wanted to be the best, she had to learn what it took to get there: hard work, sacrifice, and dedication.

That also proved to pay off during her middle school season. In sixth grade, Grace’s team played their rivals in the state championship.

A few seconds left, the game is tight and the ball’s in Grace’s hands.

She breaks away heading to the hoop. Layup, count it!

Win secured and state championship theirs.

She felt a rush of adrenaline and a revived passion for the game.

In seventh grade, Grace and her team went to the state championship again. And in eighth, yes, they made it to three state championships in a row.



High School Highs

Grace started on varsity as a freshman at Mukwonago High School with a talented group of upperclassmen. Senior Bre Cera took Grace under her wing, molded her into a better leader, and helped inspire her work ethic. These efforts led to an incredibly successful season culminating with placing second in the state tournament.


Cera’s teachings paid off the next year, when Grace led a starting squad of underclassmen after all the seniors left. Several of those seniors went on to play in college, including Cera at University of Iowa - make that D1 University of Iowa.

If she could do it, maybe Grace could too.

But at this point, one thing held Grace back as a player: confidence issues. They stemmed from her desire for perfection.

A missed shot. She was shaken up.

Perfection.

Two missed shots. Even more.

Perfection.

Suddenly she was 7 for 10.

Not good enough.

“I wanted to impress people… I just had a mental battle with myself every day and I think that had to do with my confidence. I didn’t believe I was good at everything I did, if that makes sense.”

Her dad would tell her, “Do this better” and “You should have done this.”

Not helping.

She needed some better assistance soon or this could really be the end. She desperately needed kind and encouraging affirmations for a confidence boost.

And her high school coach, Coach Kolinske, provided it.

With his support she decided to try to directly address her mental struggles. She knew she simply could not sustain the stress the sport caused her.

So when she stepped onto the hardwood, she reminded herself that she knew what she was doing. As she went for a pull-up, she remembered the countless hours she had spent perfecting that specific shot. As she drove down the lane, she performed the footwork with mere muscle memory. As she jumped to block a shot, she recalled doing the exact motions in front of her dad.

As she did this she slowly had a shift - a shift to a more confident mentality.

With this shift also came a shift in Grace’s dad. He began to focus on the big picture. Even after not-so-great games, he offered advice rather than picking apart her mistakes. He, too, reminded himself that Grace knew what she was doing.

Grace helped her already skilled squad to some successful seasons. Sophomore year, the team lost in the game to go to the state tournament. However, junior year, the team placed second in the state, and senior year, they placed third.


She received much recognition for her personal success as well. She was named player of the year in the conference sophomore year and first team all conference and all state sophomore, junior, and senior years. Schools around the country noticed her.


And then…


The D1 offers came in. Her dream came true.


Right?


Which One?

So many choices. Decision time.

One unique and very unexpected option somehow entered the mix: None of the above.

Grace began battling with the thought that basketball might not be her future.

Thanks in large part to her mom, Grace had also achieved incredible success in the classroom. Not shocking, considering her work ethic.

“I was always very academically focused. My parents instilled that in me since I was five years old.”

Did it make more sense to pursue a stable and academic career instead of the D1 path headed towards professional basketball?

She recalled learning from some D1 players that coaches "aren’t as forgiving” to players with rigorous course loads. And she did want to make academics one of her top priorities…

Stop it! Stay focused! The dream was D1.

One of the best players in the state three years in a row deserved to go D1. Right?

She needed to follow her passion. And so she did.

She contacted every one of those D1 schools, and politely turned them all down.

Her passion had changed.



Her Passion’s Path

As an intense high school student, Grace wanted an academically demanding major. Additionally, she hoped to have a long-lasting profession as an adult, which was something she couldn’t get as a basketball player.

The idea of a medical career had often crossed her mind, clouded by basketball dreams but never fully out of the picture. It certainly would fulfill her desire for stability. After getting a taste of what this future could look by job shadowing, Grace developed a passion for one specific field of medicine: pharmacy.

She needed to do more research. Sitting beside each other at the kitchen table, Grace and her dad researched colleges. One stood out, as it was ranked in the nation’s top pharmacy schools and had a well-known program: The University of Health Sciences and Pharmacy.

Throughout the decision-making process, Grace reminded herself how to find a source of motivation. She first learned to do this when her brothers stopped playing basketball. Now, she was really on her own and making decisions that would change her life forever.



A Eutectic is Born

College freshman Grace Beyer sat before her laptop, alone in a study room.

Her thoughts echoed in her mind, louder every minute. One stuck out to her.

Perfection.

She paused for a moment, and wondered if she could make it.

Grace spent many early mornings, long afternoons, and late nights beside her textbooks and notes.

She barely had any free time to just hang out with friends, or even make friends for that matter. She just made more sacrifices to be the best.

But she needed to remember her roots. Back when she wanted to quit AAU, or when her dad’s training seemed unbearable, or when her confidence issues got the best of her, Grace wanted to quit. She learned to stick with her goals. In this case, Grace needed to stick with her new goal - dominate this pharmacy program. And she could do so by using what she learned from basketball.

There was, however, another place where Grace was able to display what she learned from basketball: on UHSP’s basketball court.

So no, Grace did not have to completely give up her first love for her new passion. And though UHSP isn’t D1, they are highly competitive in the often underrated NAIA.

“I think a lot of people get caught up in going D1 or going to a school that sounds awesome, but I think people should focus on academics and get a career that they enjoy doing.”

The first thing Grace learned at college was what a Eutectic is. Apparently, it’s the lowest temperature at which two liquids can come together to form a solid. It’s also the nickname of one of the nation’s top pharmacy schools.

Grace’s team struggled her first year. It was a big change for her after having such an impressive high school career.

While the team’s losses added up, she didn’t slow down. That year, she made Third-Team and All-Freshman Team in the conference, and was also named the conference Freshman of the Year. All while keeping up with her rigorous course load.

She knew the hard work would pay off both on the court with her teammates and in the classroom.

Grace also aspired to continue learning more.

Head Coach Jeff Reis entered the scene her sophomore year, and he changed everything.

“He really flipped the program around,” said Grace. Coach Reis played to the team’s strengths, allowing Grace more opportunities to shoot.

But Coach Reis did not just help her with physical aspects of the game. He also helped her develop a more positive mindset.

Some of Grace’s confidence issues returned in college, especially since the stakes were higher at that level. She thought that every mistake mattered, and she worried about the past instead of looking towards the future. This made her doubt her skills and feel stressed on the court.

Instead of counting her misses and letting them take over her mind, Coach Reis encouraged her to shoot whenever possible.

Yes, you read that right.

And there may be evidence that the advice worked: she led the nation in scoring with over 28.667 points per game in 2020-21.


Then in 2021-2022 she led the nation in scoring once again - this time with an amazing 32.9 point per game.


She was named NAIA First-Team All-American and CoSIDA NAIA Women’s Basketball Player of the Year. On top of all of that, she received the Emil S. Liston scholarship award from the NAIA, based on scholarship, character, and playing ability. Check, check and check.

“[Coach Reis] still pushes me,” she says. “He’s very similar to my dad, he has very high expectations.”


Her dad is no longer her coach or critic. As the father of the top scorer in the country, he now simply holds the title of “proud dad.”


“He’s kind of amazed at the step I took from high school to college,” Grace says, smiling.


The two can also now look back and joke about the infamous basketball punting incident. Her dad likes to retell that Grace was the one who kicked the ball. With no witnesses, it could be a possibility.


Grace has also impressed her older brothers, the people she admired from the very beginning.


“I’m very proud to be her brother,” Daniel says. “She doesn't really take any days off, just time to prepare for what is to come. Her motivation to succeed shows on the court and in her studies. She does it all.”


“She definitely did make a lot of sacrifices,” says Brian. “But they definitely have paved the way for a nice and exciting future for her.”


In her fourth year at UHSP, Grace still improves. To start off the season, she was named the American Midwest Conference Player of the Week four weeks in a row. She also still holds her insane scoring average of over 30 ppg.



A Star Satisfied


As a senior, Grace wants to focus more on her future.


What will that be?


Becoming a pharmacist. Having a family. Traveling the world, perhaps.


“I have hit so many of my expectations and goals that I had coming into college that I’m satisfied with it,” she explains. “I never believed I could score 30 points a game. I never believed I could lead the entire country in scoring. I never believed I could lead a college team into its best seasons ever.”


Though basketball isn’t included in her goals for her future, it has taught Grace so much that she can carry with her forever. They are basketball lessons turned life lessons.


She learned how to become independent, how to work hard and stay dedicated to her passion, how to handle confidence issues and stress, how to achieve balance, and how to not let perfection get in the way of taking shots (and not just with a basketball).


Though her current life path differs from what she had envisioned as a child, Grace loves who she has become from all that she has learned.


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