The Homestead Spartans were officially back to business Monday afternoon, like girls basketball teams across the state.
Senior point guard Grace Sullivan said there was never any question the Spartans would take Zoom instruction sessions and individual workouts seriously while they were separated in recent months.
“Obviously everyone is, because we're us,” she said.
But the official start to her senior season Monday was still invigorating.
“I'm so excited. We've been cooped up for so long, so I'm so excited to get after it,” Sullivan said. “We have something to prove every year, but this year we're going to prove even more.”
But as coach Rod Parker told his players as they circled around center court before evening practice, the Spartans have just three weeks to get ready before heading to Carmel to open the season Nov. 7.
“It is a little bit different,” Parker said of transitioning from open gyms to official practices. “When you're in the preseason, you're working on individual skills. And now in the first official practice, you start putting it all together in a team environment. We're still continuing to work individually, but we're working now on offensive schemes, defensive schemes. And five-on-five stuff to get ourselves ready to start playing basketball games in a couple of weeks.”
Ayanna Patterson, a junior ranked as the No. 3 girls prospect in the Class of 2022 by ESPN, said her routine was slightly altered by the pandemic, with fewer AAU games this summer and more time working in the gym with her dad.
“I feel like I got to prepare better, because I wasn't playing all those summer games, and I was able to work out and train with my father, and just get better every day,” Patterson said. “We've been really working on my guard skills, working on the perimeter. I think I've really improved on the midrange and the 3-point game, so that's different for me.”
Parker said he can already see the payoff of Patterson's offseason work.
“She looks great on the basketball court right now. She looks strong. She's physical. She's put in a lot of time in the gym in the last six months, and I'm really excited to see the season that she's going to have this year because she's truly going to be, if not the best, one of the couple best in the state of Indiana or the Midwest,” Parker said. “I'm excited to see where her journey goes this year and where she can help lead this basketball team.”
Patterson will also have to take on a bigger leadership role, as Sullivan is the only senior currently playing with Amber Austin out at least the first few weeks of the season.
“It's very different, because I now have to be a vocal leader on and off the court, and I'm one of the ones the underclassmen come to with the same questions I had,” Patterson said. “It just feels good. It's a little different, but I like that leader role.”