The magnificent freshmen seven

COVID led Coach Lorie Campbell to combine her squads; her ninth-graders were up to the varsity challenge

Coach+Lorie+Campbell+stressed+to+the+seven+freshmen+on+her+young+roster+that+the+lessons+that+basketball+offers+aren%27t+all+learned+on+the+court+of+play.+%22There+will+be+some+games+where+you+might+not+even+get+to+play%2C%E2%80%9D+Campbell+said.+%E2%80%9CYou+just+have+to+be+that+teammate+on+the+bench+that+brings+spirit%2C+joy%2C+hustle+and+culture%2C+like+getting+up+and+clapping+or+giving+reminders+because+that%E2%80%99s+just+as+important.+Especially+having+no+fans+this+year+because+of+COVID%2C+it%E2%80%99s+very+quiet.%22

Makenzie Mason

Coach Lorie Campbell stressed to the seven freshmen on her young roster that the lessons that basketball offers aren’t all learned on the court of play. “There will be some games where you might not even get to play,” Campbell said. “You just have to be that teammate on the bench that brings spirit, joy, hustle and culture, like getting up and clapping or giving reminders because that’s just as important. Especially having no fans this year because of COVID, it’s very quiet.”

Tallulah Wilson, staff reporter

Starting something new has always had an element of thrill and nerves associated with it, and in a year filled with new experiences for everyone, a growing sense of community has been created. This is certainly true for the McCallum girls varsity basketball team —specifically, their freshmen.

Cate Thoden is one of those freshmen. While starting out being younger can be scary, she says having a team like the girl varsity basketball squad has made all the difference.

Being a freshman you have to really have a tough skin and have that desire to want to play, not just be on a team and put on a uniform.”

— girls varsity basketball coach Lorie Campbell

“I was definitely very nervous before I joined, and it felt like I didn’t really know anyone,” Thoden said. “I was kind of overwhelmed at first, but everyone on the team helped me out and now I feel super a part of the team.”

Thoden is one of seven freshmen on the varsity team along with Esme Barraz, Annie Bauld, Samantha Cowles, Isabella Cruz, Lily Hobbs and Samantha Shreves.

Because of this pandemic year, selecting who would be on the team was very different than it had been before. Coach Lorie Campbell had to combine her JV and varsity teams into one because of safety reasons and take much of the preseason into consideration when deciding who would make the team.

“We spent every day on Zoom from September to October building culture, talking a lot and getting to know each other,” Campbell said. “Listening to them speak and be able to articulate themselves really well was another big reason [they stood out].”

For Campbell, this year was all about adapting and getting to know the new freshmen not just based on their athletic abilities, but their mental strengths as well. Coach Campbell sums it up in what can be called her three D’s—dedication, determination, and desire—all of which were what she was looking forward to seeing in the coming tryouts.

“Being on varsity as a freshman means you earned it because you’ve caught the coach’s eye, and they’ve seen something in you. It might not be that you’re the best scorer or something; it could be that you bring so much spirit, you’re so intelligent or you just hustle your butt off,” Campbell said. “You have to really listen and learn. I think that being a freshman you have to really have a tough skin and have that desire to want to play, not just be on a team and put on a uniform.”

Freshman Esme Barraz had a strong debut and an even better closing act to her first season of high school basketball. In her first high school basketball game on Nov. 17, Barraz recorded seven steals and scored 11 points to help lead the varsity to an easy victory over Eastside Memorial. In the final two games of her freshman season, Barraz led her team in scoring. Her breakout game came in the penultimate game of the season at Travis on Feb. 2. In a 30-21 victory, she scored a game-high 18 points. She also led her team with seven rebounds, seven steals and five deflections. Photo by Makenzie Mason.

Another big part of Campbell’s decision for the freshmen was seeing how the teams and players adjusted to the changes made in practices and the class caused by the pandemic.

“This is a year of growth in general for pandemic reasons, and I’ve seen them take information and put it into play the next time that they do something in the court,” Campbell said. “That was one of the bigger reasons why they were chosen. They adapted and responded really well and are all very intelligent.”

Though being on varsity as a freshman can mean you don’t have as many opportunities to play, according to Coach Campbell being on the sidelines is just as important.

“As a freshman, you have to realize that you’re going to be playing against kids who might be juniors and seniors and there will be some games where you might not even get to play,” Campbell said. “You just have to be that teammate on the bench that brings spirit, joy, hustle and culture, like getting up and clapping or giving reminders because that’s just as important. Especially having no fans this year because of COVID, it’s very quiet.”

I was kind of overwhelmed at first, but everyone on the team helped me out and now I feel super a part of the team.”

— freshman Cate Thoden

When they are given the chance to play, the freshmen have been known to give it their all.

“When you get your chance to play, which might not be for very long you have to go at it with everything, which they do a really good job of,” Campbell said. “For instance, Esme Barraz, who was really aggressive on the court and attacks the basket or Annie Bauld, who was unafraid to play against the upperclassmen.”

Adjusting to the new environment and athletes has also been a difficult aspect for both the coaches and the players.

“It was kind of hard for me to adjust from middle school basketball to high school basketball because high school is so much more competitive,” Thoden said. “It took me a week or so to get used to it, all the properly learning skills and techniques that I never learned in middle school.”

Campbell agreed that high school is a whole different ballgame.

“It can be a culture shock just because of the way that I run practices,” she said. “A lot of coaches tell, tell, tell, do, do, do, but I have always preferred asking them questions rather than telling them what to do and seeing how they respond.”

And this year, that difference is magnified. Campbell, however, focuses on the positive rather than the often-told negative.

“There have been some pros of just having everybody on varsity, like how those freshmen are going to learn a whole lot of stuff a lot quicker,” she said. “It’s always been about keeping the joy and love for the game alive, and COVID has changed their attitude and how we play the game. It’s taught us to be resilient. So I think it’s been a blessing in disguise.”

Plus, combining the two teams this year has provided Campbell with an opportunity to grow her mindset and teach everyone what it means to be a team.

“Some of our kids didn’t even play this year because of COVID, but we’ve gotten through it together and believed in ourselves,” Campbell said. “I’m glad the freshmen got to see that nothing is easy. It’s not just let’s play and wear a uniform, you really got to work at getting better and we have been. We’ve just had to get together and execute.”

Freshman forward Sam Cowles scored six points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 42-18  win over the Navarro Vikings on Jan. 22. In the next game, a 63-23 victory over Northeast on Jan. 27, she grabbed a season-high 11 rebounds. She led the team in rebounds for the season with 72 rebounds over the 16-game season. Photo by Dave Winter.

Through all of this change and trouble, the most important things have stayed the same inside the walls of the gym.

“One of the important cultural things that we do at the end of every practice is to celebrate one another telling each other we are proud of them for getting through a tough practice, or if they did something we thought was good,” Campbell said. “I really try to make sure that I celebrate them. They celebrate each other and try to make each other a little bit better every day.”

I just love the sound of a happy gym, and to me that’s the squeaks of tennis shoes and athletes high-fiving each other or celebrating each other regardless of if the drill went well or if it didn’t”

— Coach Campbell

The pandemic has also helped Coach Campbell reminisce and hold on to what she loves most about being a coach.

“I just love the sound of a happy gym, and to me that’s the squeaks of tennis shoes and athletes high-fiving each other or celebrating each other regardless of if the drill went well or if it didn’t,” Campbell said. “Just celebrating one another, growing together, playing to see what you can do, and then putting that all out on the court and coming together afterwards… it’s just exciting to be in that kind of environment.”

And as for scores and records, Campbell doesn’t depend on them to meas- ure her team’s success.

“I think success comes with other aspects than just wins and losses, and the team can get over that challenge,” Campbell said. “It’s all about attitude over execution and just thinking about how you measure success. Sometimes you have to view it in different ways.”

Coach Campbell and the team continue to look forward to the oncoming games and are hopeful and confident that they will do well.

“I’m very proud of the group this year, and all the seniors and how they’ve grown,” Campbell said. “I’m happy and excited to have seen how the freshmen have grown and how they continue to grow and improve. It’s a really cool thing to get to experience and be an influence in.”