Freshmen Knights find success, opportunity in their first season on the high school court

Battling through injuries, resilient girls basketball teams build community through shared adversity

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Lillian Gray

The freshman B girls basketball team breaks from a huddle at the Dec. 9 game against Travis. While the Knights lost 38-8, coach Catherine O’Neal said that the players maintained a winning attitude. “The big win of the game was that they didn’t let the big score gap deter them from playing hard,” O’Neal said. “They were positive in the second half and played better.”

Amira Habib Weymouth, Mac photojournalism

Conversation roars from the back of the bus that hurdles through the early morning, delivering the freshman A, JV and varsity girls basketball teams to Lockhart High School, where they will play their Thanksgiving break games. Freshman B, riddled with injuries and down a few players, played Nov. 21 but had to enlist two people from the freshman A team to play with them. Even still, cries of encouragement from the bench could be heard ringing across the gym, coming from the players who had been injured.

I feel like working as the freshman teams is better for me personally than working with varsity and JV. When we stay later, we can work together more.”

— freshman Evelyn Jenkins

On Nov. 22, on the bus with just five remaining players from Freshman A and one sub from Freshman B, the freshman side of the bus remained quiet. After the freshman B game, despite the loss, spirits remained high. Support and words of encouragement from one teammate to another, joking and laughing, made the long bus ride home seem far too short. But for some freshman players, the transition from middle to high school basketball started off a little rough. For starters, freshman teams practice a lot later than Varsity and JV do on A-days. Freshman Evelyn Jenkins, the starting power forward, said that the later practice time for the freshmen has allowed players to bond.

“It’s a challenge but it’s more chill,” Jenkins said. “I don’t know how to describe it, but I feel like working as the freshman teams is better for me personally than working with varsity and JV. When we stay later, we can work together more.”

Amara Raab, the starting center on the freshman B team, has different feelings on the matter.

“It’s fun to play with [varsity and JV] because you get to be in a place where you are growing from being around other people who are more experienced than you,” Raab said. “But I also think that on A-days it’s sometimes tough because we don’t have as much time to practice and we still need as much time as the upperclassmen if not more.” 

McCallum hasn’t had a freshman girls basketball team in a long time, much less a B team, and it has been a transition for the coaches too. Social studies teacher Catherine O’Neal came immediately from coaching the volleyball B team to coaching the basketball freshman B team and, despite the adjustment, she has been loving it.

On Dec. 9, the freshman A team enjoyed a decisive win over Navarro with a score of 42-16. Freshman Evelyn Jenkins said that it was a much-needed victory. “I think getting this win has really helped our confidence,” she said. (Lillian Gray)

“The communication and culture are slightly different; every sport has its own specific culture to it, like how the head coaches are different.” O’Neal said. “Coach Kehn and Coach Brodbeck are different, but I love and respect them both and they run different types of programs.”

When it comes to basketball and volleyball, O’Neal said that she “feels like a freshman too” because her main sports in high school were swimming and track. Being a long distance from basketball and volleyball, she is learning too. Basketball and volleyball don’t just work; differently, they have different cultures too.

“[Basketball] is a more physical sport so there’s more of this jokey culture,” O’Neal said. “There are injuries and players get beat up, and they get blood on their faces and they still want to play. That’s fun for me to see. Not that volleyball isn’t scrappy, it’s just a different kind of culture, and it’s really cool to see how people rise to the occasion on that.”

Since November, both freshman teams have made successful strides in district. On Dec. 9, the freshman A team beat Navarro 41-16, a victory that, according to Jenkins, was a big morale booster. 

There are injuries and players get beat up and they get blood on their faces and they still want to play. That’s fun for me to see.”

— Freshman B coach Catherine O'Neal

“Getting this win has really helped our confidence,” Jenkins said. “On offense we were communicating a lot more than we have in the past and all around, all of our playing has improved.” 

The freshman B team’s Dec. 9 game against Lake Travis had a different point outcome, a loss of 38-8, but the freshman B team’s attitude mirrored that of the winning freshman A team. 

“The big win of the game was that they didn’t let the big score gap deter them from playing hard,” O’Neal said. “They were positive in the second half and played better.” 

As for the future, O’Neal hopes that the program continues to grow and that there’s always a freshman B team.