SALEM — After a big road win, the bus ride home can be strangely subdued.
Animosity? Jealousy? Injury?
None of the above.
“We’ll do our homework on the bus,” said point guard Brenna Blakslee.
Blakslee is one of three Salem basketball stars who are also three of the top students in the senior class.
A rare blend of drive and talent, the three have Salem (9-6, 8-5 in N.H. Division 1) on pace for one of its best seasons in recent years while continuing to rank near the top of the class academically.
Blakslee is at the top of the class, No. 1 out of 360 seniors. Returning Eagle-Tribune All-Star Emily Hickey is No. 11 and Amanda Bickford is No. 17.
They are also carrying the load offensively with Bickford averaging a team-high 13.9 points a game, Hickey 9.9 ppg and Blakslee 7.6 ppg. Sophomore defensive standout Allie Sirmaian contributing 7.8 points a game.
The seniors are close friends with Hickey and Blakslee life-long best friends.
“We all have the same goal and we all want the best for each other,” said Hickey, who with 836 career points has an outside chance of joining the 1,000-point club. “We are so happy for each other. With others, there would be competition.”
Blakslee is from a noted academic family. Her father, Dana Blakslee, is a lawyer in Boston. Her brother, Robert Blakslee, a graduate of Brooks School, was a top student at the University of Chicago, one of the country’s top schools. He won a prestigious Fulbright Scholarship and is studying in Mexico. Her sister, Danica Blakslee, graduated in the top five percent of the class at Salem and is studying chemical engineering at Northeastern.
Blakslee, who plans to play basketball and study chemical engineering at WPI, is proud of her academic achievements. That includes winning the Harvard Book Award and scoring a 30 on her ACT (the equivalent of a 2,070 on the SAT), a 5 on the AP Calculus exam and a 4 on the AP Biology exam.
“I’m pretty proud of it,” said Blakslee, who was named second-team All-Division 1 last winter.
“I’ve stayed on top of my work. It’s definitely a lot. During the basketball season, it’s tough. It can be a long night ... 1 a.m. maybe.”
Just like with her academics, Hickey left no stone unturned in choosing a college.
“I visited almost all of the NESCAC schools, a few of the Ivies, NYU, I went everywhere,” she said.
Late in the summer she decided on Connecticut College, where she’s planning on studying pre-law.
“I loved the assistant and head coach and all the girls on the team. I just felt I fit in over all the others,” said Hickey.
She’s used to making tough decisions.
She chose Salem over Central Catholic, where her father, Tim Hickey, is in the Hall of Fame and her sister, Michaela Hickey, starred on the basketball and soccer teams. Michaela now plays soccer at Seton Hall.
It’s worked out well for Hickey, a four-year starter on the Blue Devil soccer and basketball teams.
The National Honor Society student won the Bryant University Book Award.
The academic and athletic accolades didn’t come easily.
“I like to be busy all the time,” said the 5-7 guard. “You have those rough nights/late nights. I enjoy it. I’d rather do that then not do anything.”
Hickey estimates she does four hours of homework a night.
“You really have to with these classes,” she said.
Amanda Bickford is a fine ballplayer but it might be her third best sport. She was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star in volleyball and will play that sport and softball at St. Anselm’s.
She’s talented on the basketball court, too, as Monday’s 27-point, 10-rebound performance against Manchester Memorial illustrated.
Early in her career, the 5-8 Bickford wondered if she’d be able to flourish as both an athlete and a student.
“Freshman year was really hard,” she said. “I got better with time management skills.”
She said her academic highlight was being inducted into the National Honor Society.
“In middle school, I didn’t get into it,” she explained. “It was a turning point. I had to pick it up. It boosted me to get better. Getting into the National Honor Society last spring was a great accomplishment.”
Long hours, study tricks and time management have been crucial.
“I’ll study before games and right after games,” said Bickford, a crime scene show fanatic who plans to study forensic science at St. A’s.
“Maybe I’ll go to midnight. I do a lot of flashcards and quizzes on-line.”
We’re a sports-obsessed society, but the three scholar-athletes agree school has to come first.
“That’s a hard question,” said Blakslee. “I put a lot of work into both. Overall, academics are more important. School comes first. But I’m also proud of where I am athletically.”
Hickey said, “I take pride in both, but at the end of the day I know it’s the academics which will get me a job. I won’t play in the WNBA. I pride myself in both and balance them. But you have to understand where you’re future is.”
“Academics definitely come first for me,” said Bickford.
If you have an interesting anecdote, a story idea, an old picture, contact Michael Muldoon at 978-946-2312 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MullyET.