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Vernon Hills' Bennett-Swanson likes DePaul
By Joe Aguilar | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 3/14/201 11:31 PM

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The daughter produced sweet music after all.

Not that Meri Bennett-Swanson hadn't displayed musical dexterity with her oboe before.

But this time the tune went a little something like this:

"Coach Bruno, I accept."

Kind of catchy, no?

Bennett-Swanson, a veteran of wind ensemble, symphony orchestra and varsity basketball at Vernon Hills, made a verbal commitment to play Division I hoops for DePaul University this week.

It must have been sweet music to the ears of Blue Demons coach Doug Bruno, who will be securing a 6-foot-2 center who is already her high school's all-time leading scorer with her senior season still to go.

Scouted by DePaul all last summer during AAU ball, Bennett-Swanson said the Blue Devils offered her a scholarship last August. After weighing other offers from Illinois-Chicago, Loyola, Drake and St. Bonaventure, she chose the NCAA Tournament-bound Blue Demons.

"I've been thinking about it for a long time," said Bennett-Swanson, who this past season helped lead Vernon Hills to the best season in its 12-year history, as the Cougars placed second in the Class 3A state tournament. "I'm really excited because this is the place I wanted to go. No other (school) really did what DePaul did for me."

What basketball has done for the Vernon Hills oboist is amazing considering her family doesn't necessarily have a history of athletic success, despite having basketball-like height. Her parents, 6-4 Shane Swanson and 6-foot Susan Bennett, were music majors on scholarship at the University of Iowa.

"They never expected to have a daughter who was into sports," Bennett-Swanson said with a laugh. "I was an unexpected surprise."

Shane and Susan's other child, 6-3 Nathan, is a freshman at Lewis University and is also into music.

"My whole family is more music-based," Bennett-Swanson said, "even though we have a lot of height."

Her height and athleticism have helped Bennett-Swanson produce three All-North Suburban Conference seasons on the basketball court. A two-time all-area selection, she became Vernon Hills' all-time leading scorer this past season, surpassing Beth Plucinski. Bennett-Swanson will head into next season with 1,039 career points and 518 career rebounds (second in school history to Lauren Horan's 564 boards).

Bennett-Swanson boasts a weighted 3.9 GPA (4.0 scale) and takes advanced placements courses. She credits her basketball development to several people, including Cougars coach Paul Brettner, his wife Stacie, who "lit the fire in me to play," Bennett-Swanson said, and her former Evolution Athletics AAU coach and trainer Jeff Pagliocca.

It will be interesting to see what kind of senior campaign she can put together knowing her college choice has long been made.

"The recruiting process is very fun, but it's also a lot of work," Bennett-Swanson said. "Everything clicked at DePaul. ... There was no reason to wait. I liked that DePaul identified me first."

Bennett-Swanson wasn't celebrating her selection Tuesday. She was home in bed for the second day in a row with a sinus infection. Vernon Hills' sports awards banquet was that night.

She wasn't feeling her best.

"I'll get it together and go," she said.

The show, she knows, must always go on.