Her name is all over the Ballard record books and her list of accomplishments in high school girls’ basketball ranks among the best in Iowa history.
*Four-time Class 3A first-team all-state selection.
*Four-time state tournament participant.
*Three-time all-tournament team selection.
*Two-time state finalist.
*2009 state champion.
*2009 Miss Iowa Basketball honoree by the Iowa Newspaper Association.
*A 100-7 career record.
*Ballard’s all-time leader in points, field goals, rebounds and blocked shots.
But for 2009 Ballard graduate Amanda (Zimmerman) Pitts, the game of basketball was about so much more than accolades.
“My graduation class, we were super close,” Pitts said. “They pretty much were sisters to me. Being able to say you went to state all four years with your best friends is something special. It was nice playing with the same girls and trying to get better. It all comes down to playing with my teammates, getting better and having fun, too.”
On Saturday, Pitts was honored for her tremendous accomplishments by being inducted into the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union Hall of Fame, alongside Grundy Center’s Kim Van Deest (Class of 1989) and Underwood’s Jamie Totte-Boyd (2004).
“When I got the phone call I was super-excited,” Pitts said. “The first thing I thought of was — I never could have done this without my teammates.”
Pitts moved to Huxley from Hiawatha — just outside Cedar Rapids — prior to beginning seventh grade. By the time she entered high school at Ballard, the versatile and quick 6-1 post had made quite an impression on the basketball court, having already accepted a Division 1 scholarship from Iowa State.
“Amanda was not the normal ninth-grader,” said Merle Olberding, Pitts’ coach at Ballard. “This created hype at a young age and she didn’t disappoint. She had a superior work ethic and competitive desire. She was a team player that played at a high level. More importantly, she was a great person with integrity and strong character.”
Flanking Pitts with outstanding talent in Ally (Jensen) Obermeier, Taylor (Larkin) Olson, Alexa Hugee and McKinsey Nessa, the 2006 Ballard freshman class made an immediate impact. They helped the Bombers reach the 3A state finals in their first year before losing to Norwalk.
In their sophomore and junior seasons, they fell in the semifinals to Cedar Rapids Xavier and Bishop Heelan Catholic — both eventual state champions.
“Freshman year, it was just exciting to get there, but when we lost it was obviously heartbreaking,” Pitts said. “Sophomore and junior years — same thing.”
There would be no denying Ballard in Pitts’ senior year. The Bombers crushed all three of their foes at state — Harlan, Waukon and Bishop Heelan — by an average of 26 points to bring home the school’s first-ever state title in girls’ basketball.
“Senior year, we were taking no regrets,” Pitts said. “It was the perfect ending for our class that worked so hard to get there. I’ll never forget the night we won our championship game (over Bishop Heelan, 47-22). That’s the night we got 100 wins for our career. That was pretty cool.”
Along with her natural talents, Pitts benefited greatly from honing her skills every offseason. She played for the Cedar Rapids Panthers’ club team, then for All Iowa Attack in Ames, under the tutelage of Dickson Jensen.
“I have had the privilege of coaching Amanda since her sixth-grade year,” Jensen said. “Amanda was always very coachable, extremely hard-working, had a strong desire to win and was an excellent teammate. Amanda would work on her game during practices and was a player that would work on her own on a regular basis outside of practice, thus leading to her success on the court.”
“Amanda is one of the best high school players that has played in our state,” Jensen said. “She is very deserving of her induction into the (IGHSAU) Hall of Fame.”
Several other Ballard athletes joined All Iowa Attack during Pitts’ time there, including Olson, Hugee, Nessa, McKenzie Coles, Jessie (Wheeler) Riser, Rachel Sage, Taylor Greenfield, Sierra (McVicker) Leland and Jensen’s daughters — Obermeier and Sammy (Jensen) Robson. Greenfield went on to play Division 1 ball at Stanford and Obermeier and Robson did so at Creighton.
Playing with those girls every night in high school is something Pitts cherished.
“We probably had the tallest team in the state,” Pitts said. “In practice we’d go at each other and we made each other better. By game time, we just had fun.”
Pitts’ teammates sure appreciated her presence — both on and off the court.
“Amanda was a very good basketball player — she was an even better teammate and friend,” Obermeier said. “I had the privilege of playing on her team many years growing up in the summer and throughout school, and we have nothing but great memories from those years.”
“It was an honor to represent Ballard High with her for four years, and I think this (Hall of Fame) honor speaks highly to our coaches and other teammates as well,” Obermeier said. “There are many, many great players in the (IGHSAU) Hall of Fame, and I have no doubt Amanda deserves to be among those names.”
After high school, Pitts played at Iowa State from 2010-2013. A foot injury took a toll on her career, but she still helped the Cyclones make the NCAA tournament all four years.
Pitts currently resides in Ames with her husband Brandon. She also remains close with her parents — Jeff and Annette Zimmerman — and younger brother Travis.