Young blood on the women’s basketball team welcome, add “special flavor”

Young blood on the womens basketball team welcome, add special flavor

Sophie Downey, Staff writer

While many people spend much of their lives wishing they could achieve their dreams, a few girls on the varsity basketball team are already well on their way to making theirs come true.

8th graders Adria Stewart and Andrayah Adams, and freshmen Lexus Hughes and Anjalee Jones are the four youngest players on the girls’ varsity basketball team. Though most of the team is made up of juniors and seniors, having younger players on the team is not unprecedented.

“In girls’ sports especially, younger girls often make varsity. They start playing at an early age. It’s not uncommon,” said Mark Sanders, athletic director at South, “it provides better competition, more notoriety, more headlines, and it’s a good opportunity to play in front of more people, to showcase their talent.”

Hughes said that playing on the varsity team is a “fun learning experience.”

“We have a lot of expectations because we’re younger. We know less but lots of the older players support us,” said Hughes.

The same is expected of them as the older players, the process for trying out is the same for a junior or senior trying out. “It’s the coach’s call whether to choose an eighth or ninth grader over an eleventh or twelfth grader,” said Sanders, “it’s really based on skill level.”

“If you’re a freshmen, and you come to us and say ‘I’ve been playing since third grade, I’d like to be on varsity,’ as coaches we look to elevate players with that kind of experience,” said head coach Ahmil Jihad, “Everybody brings something to the table.”

Adams, an 8th grader, was confident that she would make the team. “Playing during the summer helped me make the team, and definitely helped me learn the system.”

The practice is very rigorous, and Adams said it is different from what she has experienced in the past.

“It feels good,” said Jones. “I’m experiencing new things. It’s harder, because we’re younger…but it’s getting me ready for college.”

“It is harder than I thought it would be,” said Stewart, “it’s mentally harder rather than physically harder, because most of [the other players] are older, and have more experience.”

However, Jihad said the young players are “are all very intense players-they really are invaluable to the team.”

Even if it is harder, the youngest players on the team will have a great advantage when they become upperclassmen: years of experience.

“I definitely think playing this year has given me an advantage,” said Stewart, who was sure of her skill before she even made the team. “I was confident [when I tried out], but I didn’t think I would make varsity.”

“It’s like when you’re making cookies, having that brown sugar or nutmeg that adds that special flavor … You gain so much” said Jihad. “It’s a give and take. They are adding flavor to the team, with their youth, but they all play basketball year round, so they have a competitive background.”

This early experience is likely to pay off soon in the future. According to Sanders, not only are the individual players gaining experiences, but the whole South High basketball team benefits.

“Eighth and ninth graders are earning a valuable experience that will pay off down the road,” said Sanders. “Hopefully in a couple of years, we’ll be back to where we were a few years ago, in our heyday.”

The four girls all have high hopes for their futures playing the sport. Each one says they want to continue playing all four years of high school and into college, and as Jones said, “starting my own career.”

“I want to go all the way,” Adams said, “it’s something I really want to be doing and I don’t want to stop.”