Athletics & Recreation
Jenny (Eckert) Zorger
There were many obstacles along the road to the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame for Jenny Eckert Zorger. She completed the journey only through toughness, a fierce competitive nature, and a love for the game. Some of the most challenging times came early on.
Eckert’s house was the center of basketball in the neighborhood. The family had the hoop and the cement court with a regulation-painted free throw lane. But even though she was a self-proclaimed “tomboy,” she couldn’t get in the games with the boys. Only when one of the players had to go home early did the boys allow a girl to fill in. Her innate toughness and competitiveness came to the surface, and she was determined to hold her own, even when an “inadvertent bump” would send her flying into a woodpile.
She wears the scars of those early basketball episodes as badges of honor, because they represent the time when she learned she would have to practice hard to be able to compete. Eckert continued to push herself, and spent so much time on that patch of cement that her mother would have to call her in after dark, worried the neighbors would get tired of the sound of a bouncing basketball into the night.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association had made girls basketball an official sport only a few years before Eckert joined her first team in seventh grade at Riverview Middle School. By the time she arrived at Huntington North High School in 1982, it was clear she was a special talent. She made the varsity roster as a freshman and established herself as the team leader over the next four years.
By her senior season, Eckert’s drive and determination helped lead the Vikings to a 19-4 record. Huntington North won just its second-ever sectional title and reached the regional finals. Eckert led the way, averaging 21.7 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, and 4 assists for the year. Her efforts earned her third-team All-State honors from the Associated Press, and she became the first Huntington North player to be named to the Indiana All-Star team.
Basketball was not the only sport where Eckert excelled. In addition to her four varsity letters in basketball, she also earned three in volleyball, two in softball, and two in track.
Eckert’s influence at Huntington North lasted long past her graduation and helped put the girls basketball program on the state map. The Lady Vikings would go on to win the next 11 sectional crowns and 16 of the next 17. During that stretch, Huntington North captured state championships in 1990 and 1995, and many players on those title teams cite Eckert as their basketball role model, including 1996 Indiana Miss Basketball Lisa Winter.
Eckert’s name still stands atop Huntington North’s all-time scoring list with 1,365 points, with a single-game best of 35 points. She also holds the school mark for steals with 373, and is among the all-time leaders with 479 rebounds and 228 assists.
Ball State made Eckert its top recruit in 1986, and she did not disappoint. In one of her first appearances for the Cardinals as a freshman in an intrasquad game, Eckert played all 40 minutes and nearly had a triple-double with 19 points, nine assists, and nine steals.
Eckert was a starter in college from her opening game. She was named to the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman team, and continued to garner honors over the rest of her collegiate career. Three times she was the Cardinals’ most valuable player. In her final season in Muncie, Eckert scored in double figures in 23 of 28 games, leading Ball State to a 17-11 season, the most wins in school history. Those efforts earned Eckert First-Team All-MAC honors, and she was named the conference’s player of the year in 1990.
She also left her mark on the Ball State record book, and remains sixth on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,432 points, second in assists with 471, and second in steals with 319.
Eckert tried her hand in professional basketball, playing one season for the St. Louis RiverQueens of the Women’s Basketball Association, the precursor of the current WNBA. She enjoyed being able to continue her career, but the $50 she earned per game did not make it a lucrative or lasting endeavor.
After her playing days, Eckert continued to be honored. She was named Ball State’s Player of the Decade for the 1980s, and was chosen for the school’s Hall of Fame in 1998. The Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame selected her to the Silver Anniversary Team in 2011, and she earned the ultimate honor when she was individually named to the hall in 2014.
Eckert is married to Rod Zorger, and she has stayed close to sports in her post-playing life, first working for Rawlings Sporting Goods in St. Louis, then with American Specialties Insurance in Roanoke and currently with SourceOne Insurance.
She continues to influence the future of girls basketball as a coach. She first became an assistant at Huntington North before joining the Columbia City staff, where she has been a varsity assistant the past 13 years.