Rachel Plotke stands on a dock 5,639 miles from her Woodbridge, Conn.t hometown. In most situations, water looks the same, no matter where it is. But tonight, she stands with her teammates, their coach having brought them here to watch the Mediterranean sunset. Plotke, at 5-foot-4, positions herself next to some of the most talented Jewish girls in the nation, including Drew Edelman, a USC commit who stands a foot taller.
Tonight, Plotke watches the sunset.
Tomorrow, she will win the gold medal with Team USA at the 19th Maccabiah Games.
Plotke earned her spot on Team USA and in the Games in non-traditional fashion. She missed the tryouts but, still eager to find a way to play, sent head coach Sherry Levin her highlight tape. Levin liked what she saw and Plotke was offered a spot on the roster. However, for her, it was more than just another opportunity to play.
The Maccabiah Games not only allowed Plotke the unique opportunity to compete on an international level – in a Jewish-only, Olympics-style competition – but also allowed her to be immersed in her Jewish culture.
“Playing across the world representing my country was such a great experience,” said Plotke. “Not only that, but connecting with other Jewish athletes from all over the world was an experience like no other.”
Long before competing in the Maccabiah Games, Plotke discovered her knack for basketball almost accidentally. Her older brother, Aaron, got a basketball hoop as a gift, but it was the younger Plotke who was always shooting around in the driveway. Aaron and his friends would raise the height of the rim to 10 feet every time they played. This infuriated Plotke who, even at eight-years-old, already took the game seriously.
From that moment on, Plotke could be found on the court any chance she got – during recess, after school, eventually working her way onto the middle school team, Amateur Athletic Union teams and the Jewish Community Center boys basketball travel team.
But despite her extensive pre-high school resume, and her improved shooting abilities, Plotke was still at a disadvantage because of one thing. Her height.
“In terms of my height, I think most people have underestimated my abilities,” said Plotke. “In middle and high school, my height wasn’t such a factor because most people were of similar height as me. But as the level of competition increased in college, I’m typically one of the smallest players on the court. I’ve only used that as motivation. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative thing. In fact, I’ve used it to my advantage. Being smaller on the court means that I’ve had to be smarter.”
For Plotke, that meant better shooting. She never wanted to let go of the ball – unless it was to send it to the net. In high school, Plotke – a four-time conference all-star and two-year captain at Hamden Hall Country Day School – scored 1,730 points and made 319 three-pointers.
There’s no denying Plotke knows how to shoot a basketball. She scored eight points in just nine minutes in her first career game at Muhlenberg. During her sophomore season, she led the nation in three-point shooting percentage and made 98.2 percent of her free throws, including breaking the previously held Centennial Conference record with 55 in a row. Whether she says so or not, she was instrumental in Muhlenberg’s Centennial Conference championship that year.
“During my sophomore year, winning the Centennial Conference championship at home is one of my favorite memories,” said Plotke. “I remember the student section filled up the gym with their loud cheering, to the point where I couldn’t hear coach Rohn or my teammates calling out plays. The atmosphere is one I don’t think can ever be replicated.”
“I’m typically one of the smallest players on the court. I’ve only used that as motivation. I wouldn’t say that’s a negative thing. In fact, I’ve used it to my advantage. Being smaller on the court means that I’ve had to be smarter.” – Rachel Plotke ’18
During Plotke’s junior year, she played just 19 games due to injury, but still finished second on the team in scoring. She made every single one of her free throws that year.
And this year she hit another milestone, sending one of her three-pointers through the net to go over the 1,000 point mark. With that, a little over a week after Brandi Vallely ‘18, Plotke became the 12th woman and 36th overall player to hit 1,000.