PEORIA, Ill. (BVM) – Mya Wardle has a last name that is known pretty well in the Upper Midwest. As her basketball career has continued to progress, she is making sure to take in all the knowledge she can from her family – particularly her two parents who were former college athletes – while focusing on making her own name for herself.
“What I’ve learned from them through sports is just their work ethic,” Wardle said. “They are the hardest workers I know … Also just their drive and their motivation. Seeing that they both found their passions in life and they followed it, it’s something that’s really cool. Seeing how motivated they were to achieve their dreams and roll the dice on themselves, I definitely took that away and I’m trying to do the same right now.”
Mya’s father is Brian Wardle, a former college basketball standout at Marquette. Brian joined the Golden Eagles out of Hinsdale Central High School where he became a two-time all-state player as well as the all-time leading scorer and rebounder for the Red Devils.
At Marquette, Brian helped his team to two NIT appearances, and still sits as the program’s eighth all-time leading scorer. After brief stops in the NBA D League and Continental Basketball Association post-college, Brian began his coaching career as an assistant back at Marquette and later at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. In 2010, Brian got his first opportunity to be a head coach with the Phoenix.
Going 95-65 over his five years at Green Bay, Brian was named Horizon League Coach of the Year in 2014 and led his team to an at-large selection in the NIT in 2014-15. His tremendous success would springboard him to his next and current job as head coach of the Bradley Braves.
At Bradley, Brian took over a program that had not had a winning conference record in six seasons. By 2019, the Braves won their first conference title in over three decades and made an NCAA Tournament appearance. They repeated as Missouri Valley champions once again in 2020.
While Brian has had his success on the court, Mya’s mother, Lecia Schuetz, was a college soccer player at Marquette, meeting Brian during their time together at the school.
Growing up in Green Bay, Mya used to follow in her mom’s footsteps as a soccer player. However, basketball has always been her sport, playing since she was old enough to walk and carry a ball. At the same time, she was in awe of many of the players her dad was coaching at Green Bay.
“My first memories were just going to the Green Bay Phoenix games,” Mya said. “Seeing the team and seeing those guys, I thought they were amazing, the coolest people in the world. They were super tall and they could dunk. But as I got older, I got to see more sides of it and especially being around it the way I am, I fell in love with everything about it … The whole sport just became my life and I love it.”
Currently, Mya has grown to idolize the likes of some current college basketball stars such as Hailey Van Lith and Paige Bueckers. But as she was growing up, one of her favorite players was one of her dad’s best, Keifer Sykes. Sykes is the only Horizon League player ever to score over 2,000 points, dish out 500 assists and grab over 400 rebounds in his career.
Yet, the biggest role model in Mya’s life has remained her father, as she has been able to look up to him on and off the court.
“My dad and I have a very special relationship that not every dad and daughter have,” Mya said. “Not only is he a coach, but he’s my dad. We are basically the same person, we have so many personality traits that are so similar.”
After moving to Peoria while she was in fourth grade as Brian took over at Bradley, Mya has had the opportunity to learn the game even further. Leadership and a high basketball IQ have become two of the 15-year-old’s greatest strengths on the court, and that has come from unique opportunities Mya has had like getting to sit in on film sessions with the Bradley coaches or even attending practices.
“He lets me do a lot of things that girls don’t get to do,” Mya said. “I get to come down, see their film, pick his brain about certain things and see his insight. Obviously, I can see why he’s so special at what he does. He’s, in my opinion, one of the smartest people I know in the sport and within life.”
As both Brian and Lecia have served as role models for Mya, she is now trying to do the same for her younger siblings, Emery and Davin. With Emery being three years younger than Mya, the sisters are eager to play one season of high school basketball together in 2023-24.
“I love my siblings,” Mya said. “We’re all super different people … We’re all super close, we train together, we do family workouts together in the summer, and that’s not something every family gets. Obviously, I try to be the best role model I can be for them.”
The Wardle family continues to grow its legacy, and a big part of that is due to Mya’s play on the court. After moving to Peoria, she began a successful AAU tenure with Heart of Illinois (HOI), winning nationals in her sixth grade year. She now plays select basketball in Iowa with Lady Martin Brothers.
“It was a great experience, I loved it,” Mya said about playing for HOI. “Those girls became my sisters … It was amazing, it’s such a great program. My siblings still play there and it was awesome, it was family.”
Already an AAU champion, Mya also helped her school team at St. Vincent to a state championship in eighth grade.
“That was so fun, that was crazy,” Mya added. “Honestly, in that moment I kind of realized that this is what I wanted to do, not just because we won, but because I fell in love with the journey.”
Shortly after the title, Mya faced the adversity all athletes did in 2020 during the initial part of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, she stayed sharp, got to play another summer of AAU ball, and came in prepared for her high school career at Peoria Notre Dame despite her first season being delayed and abbreviated.
“It was a little weird because of Covid,” Mya said. “I think the biggest thing for me was just the size. Everyone was bigger than me … But I think the worst part of it was that our seniors didn’t get a postseason. We kind of went all out for them.”
The 5-foot-7 guard played both JV and varsity, helping lead the Fighting Irish to a 13-3 overall record. Success continued for Peoria Notre Dame this past winter, as Mya continued to develop into a true leader for her team in a more normalized season.
“I think that sometimes people don’t like to lead because it’s uncomfortable,” Mya explained. “For me, I’m OK with being a little uncomfortable sometimes … Being young, a lot of older girls might be like, ‘She’s a sophomore, who does she think she is?’ I’m not thinking I’m better than everybody else, it’s just in my blood. I think I was born to lead.”
Under the sophomore’s leadership, the Fighting Irish won 24 games and were one of the top-ranked teams in the state as Mya averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 assists per game during the regular season. Unfortunately, the year ended with a tough loss in the regional championship.
“We were really good this year,” Mya said. “We lost in the regional championship which was extremely disappointing. It’s part of the game though, you win some and you lose some. It was hard to lose like that and go out like that because this team was the closest team I’ve ever been on. Everyday I loved coming to practice and I loved playing … We didn’t finish the way we wanted to, but I wouldn’t have wanted to play this year with anyone else than the girls I did. It was an incredible season.”
Coming up just short this past season, Mya’s main goal is to go to state in her final two years at Peoria Notre Dame. Win or lose, she also hopes to leave a positive impact on the program overall.
“Obviously, my goal my junior and senior year is to go to state,” Mya said. “That’s the goal every year, but I really want to go to state now that I kind of got a taste of what the postseason is like.
“I want to leave the program better than what I came into. I want to leave a winning program that has won consistently and that’s what we’ve done my first two years here. I just want to be remembered as a great leader and a great teammate.”
This spring, Mya continues to run track at Peoria Notre Dame, and will continue to play AAU basketball over the summer. After her next two years of high school basketball are finished, she will look to follow in her parents’ footsteps as a college athlete.
Currently, Mya has already received offers from SIU-Edwardsville, Eastern Illinois, Indiana State and Bradley. More offers will undoubtedly come in as her play continues to progress, likely giving her plenty of options, perhaps even back at her parents’ alma mater.
“I’ve been talking to some coaches here and there from other conferences,” Mya said. “Hopefully this AAU season will be more back to normal, a lot of people will come out and watch our team play. But honestly, I know that getting an offer is a blessing, not everyone gets to do that. I know the hard work really starts when you’re in college, and that’s what I’m training for.
“As much as people love to go where their parents went, I haven’t really thought about it. I definitely would be open to it if it’s the right fit. It might ruffle some feathers though if I do better than my dad at Marquette. We’ll just have to see what happens, but I’d be open to it.”
In college, Mya will be prepared to do whatever it takes to help her team win. Whether that ends up being at Marquette or somewhere else, she does know she wants to follow her dad’s path as a coach after her playing career.
“After college, I definitely think I would find a way to get into coaching,” Mya said. “It’s in my blood, it’s in my DNA, I can totally see myself doing it. I love the game and I think that it’d be awesome to be able to coach it because I don’t think I’d be able to stay away from it for too long.”
No matter where Mya’s bright future goes, the most important thing for her will be continuing her family’s success, and adding to the great legacy the Wardle name already has.
“Obviously, my last name is pretty well-known because of my dad,” Mya said. “Because of it, I have good genetics, but it’s a deeper meaning. It’s an honor to be a Wardle. I just respect it a lot and I hold myself to a higher standard on the court but also off the court. That’s what makes the Wardle name so special, we hold ourselves to a higher standard.”