Going into the 2011-12 season, Janelle Groer wanted to accomplish only one thing as she prepared to end her successful basketball career at Carroll University in Waukesha. She wanted the Pioneers to have a winning season and make it to the season-ending Midwest Conference tournament.
Groer and her Carroll teammates did just that. They finished the season with a 13-12 record overall, an 11-7 mark in conference play and advanced to the league championship game, where the Pioneers lost to Monmouth, 75-67.
But Groer also got a little more out of the season than expected. In a vote of the 10 conference coaches, Groer captured the highest individual honor a player can receive, being named the Midwest Conference Player of the Year in women's basketball.
"Being named the Player of the Year was a great way for me to cap off my college career," Groer said. "I was very surprised when coach told me about it. I was never thinking about that. I just wanted to play as well as I could and help the team the best I could. I was amazed to win it. So many people have come up and congratulated me. I guess I couldn't have asked for a better way to finish my basketball career."
It was easy to see why Groer won the Player of the Year award. She was the second-leading scorer in the conference (17.9), first in assists (4.2) and second in steals (2.4). She played the second-most minutes in the league, averaging 32.7 minutes per game.
The accolades didn't stop there. She was named second team All Region by D3hoops.com and was named honorable mention All-American by Women's Division III News.
For the season, the 5-foot-10 senior forward led the Pioneers in scoring at 18.2 points per game, led the team in rebounding at 6.9, shot 64 percent from the free-throw line, 39 percent from the field and 35 percent from the 3-point arc.
Groer, 22, finished the season playing her best basketball of the year. In her final three games, she scored a total of 80 points and pulled down 27 rebounds.
"I just wanted to end by college career the best I could," Groer said. "I really didn't want to see the season end. I knew when it did, my basketball career would be over. It's kind of sad. I've had a lot of fun playing the sport all of these years. I'm going to miss it, but it's time to move on."
The former Pewaukee High School standout (three years with the PHS varsity) is majoring in elementary education and will get her degree after the upcoming fall semester. She graduated from Pewaukee in 2008.
Groer, who scored 30 or more points twice this season, had her best game on Feb. 8 against Ripon College. That night she fired in a career-best 34 points and pulled down a team-high nine rebounds. She also scored 30 points on Feb. 24 against league champion St. Norbert's. In one stretch this winter, she had five games in a row where she scored 20 or more points.
"My confidence grew and grew as the season moved on," Groer said. "I had great teammates and our chemistry was so good that it helped every player on the team do their best."
Going to Carroll turned out to be a perfect fit for Groer. She started all four seasons and scored 335 points as a freshman, 341 as a sophomore, 388 as a junior and 455 this past season.
Groer's numbers rank her as one of the most successful players in school history. She ranks in the top 10 in six statistical categories, including fourth in all-time scoring (1,519), ninth in career rebounds (627), second in steals (247) seventh in assists (239), fifth in free throws (287) and fourth in field goals made (584).
"I knew that Janelle would play well at Carroll, but she certainly did a lot better than expected," said her former coach at Pewaukee, Todd Hansen. "She was always a hard worker in basketball. But for her to go and play college basketball and be named the Player of the Year, that's special. I'm very proud of her for doing well at the collegiate level."
Groer said it's not easy going to college and also playing a sport.
"Of course, the level of competition is a lot better than high school," Groer said. "Everyone is faster, stronger and can jump higher. But I enjoyed the challenge of that. The hardest thing is learning to juggle your school work with basketball and all the road trips you take. It's not easy. But the coaches and the other people at school help you with that as much as they can. As things turned out, going to Carroll was the best decision I ever made. I love it there."