I love writing about success stories. I love writing about high school athletes who go above and beyond in their sports and see the benefits of hard work, so to end 2008 I get to tell you an ultra-success story.

I love writing about success stories. I love writing about high school athletes who go above and beyond in their sports and see the benefits of hard work, so to end 2008 I get to tell you an ultra-success story.

When I first heard of Julie Plank, she was a young basketball player at Hartley High School. Maybe it was when she was a freshman and she and her teammates were playing in and winning the first girls basketball state tournament, or maybe it was during her sophomore or junior years when I and many other sports fans found out that girls could really play basketball and play it well.

Plank was the point guard for Hartley all four years of her high school career, and in two of those years -- 1976 and 1978 -- she was part of state championship teams.

She went on to play at Ohio State, and for three of her years as a Buckeye she was coached by the brilliant Tara VanDerveer, who became the coach at Stanford and took Plank with her as an assistant.

After Stanford there were coaching experiences at Vanderbilt with current Ohio State coach Jim Foster with the U.S. national team preparing for the 2000 Olympics in Sidney and eight years as an assistant in the WNBA.

With basketball forever in her blood, Plank now gets the opportunity of her life as this summer she was named coach of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA. From Hartley to her elite status today, the common thread has been basketball.

"My days at Hartley were so very important to me," Plank said. "We had this wonderful coach in Beth Conway and I had these wonderful teammates who had the same values toward sports and life that I did.

"Coach Conway taught me so much about utilizing my leadership skills, and by winning two state championships I gained the early success you need to keep motivating yourself to improve. But most of all I learned about the sport of basketball. I learned from my coach what it took to be successful and what I needed to move on to college ball."

On her years at Ohio State, Plank said: "Coach VanDerveer was another major influence on my life. She was remarkable in developing players, teaching you a good work ethic and teaching you how to be competitive. She valued my qualities, she valued my hard work and she understood and taught me how important team chemistry is to being successful. She taught me how to be an assistant coach. I learned so much from her and the other head coaches I worked for at the college and professional levels."

This year, Plank will face the biggest challenge of her basketball career as a professional coach, and typical of her personality, she said she is ready for the test.

"Of course there is lots of pressure in a job like this, but I am truly excited to begin," she said. "I have done all I can do at the other levels and I am looking forward to making my own decisions and trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I am getting the opportunity to work with some of the best women's basketball players in the world and I cherish the chance to teach teamwork and team unity just like coach Conway did 30 years ago when I was at Hartley.

"Basketball has given me so many breaks in my life. I have had the chance to travel all over the world and meet so many outstanding individuals. I have a big network of friends from former coaches like Jim Foster and June Daugherty and former teammates like Yvette Angel, Amy Pallay and Misty Cox. And of course I could have never become successful without the constant support over the years from my family. There are lots of things that I love, and without a doubt, Columbus and basketball are right at the top."

Thirty-two years from the time Plank began her drive to prove she was good in basketball, she has reached the pinnacle of her sport. She has set the standard for younger players to follow.

May 2009 be good to you Julie. You deserve it.

Happy New Year!