Cal-Hi Sports Bay Area
Taking the next step. It's a term we hear all the time in sports. It's part of the "getting better every day" philosophy, which is a mantra athletes live by these days. In high school sports "taking the next step" can have many different meanings, but the one I feel is most important is the transformation many players go through when they finish as juniors and head to their senior seasons as the leaders on their respective squads.
It's interesting to speculate which of this year's juniors will "take the next step" and blossom into stars as seniors. No matter who it is making the jump to elite, watching the transformation is always a sight to behold. Seeing players like Elliot Pitts from De La Salle basketball and Jeffery Prothro from James Logan football lead their teams to successful seasons this year was a joy to watch. It's always a guessing game as to which student athletes will take the reigns and become a leader, someone the team looks up to, the "Man." Some high schoolers struggle with that extra weight, which isn't a knock on them of course, some people excel in different roles, but the most difficult role to develop into I believe is that of a leader.
Another example of a player "taking the next step" this season is Kendall Smith from Deer Valley basketball. Kendall is a standout point guard/shooting guard and was the emotional leader for the Wolverines this year. Last year as a junior, I watched Kendall dominate in certain situations but struggle in others when it came to getting frustrated and controlling his on court personality. Kendall is a supremely talented player, but from his junior to senior seasons, he figured out how to be a leader, how to lead a team, how to take control and tell people what to do and where they need to be. It was a huge step for Kendall Smith and his game, one attribute UNLV liked about him when signing him to play for the Rebels next season. If i had to guess, Kendall will turn some heads at UNLV in the near future, both with his game, and his on court attitude.
So now, as Kendall Smith (and Kentucky-bound and highly touted big man Marcus Lee) leave for the ranks of Division I hoops, Deer Valley will look to a class of incoming seniors and hope for a select few to "take the next step" and lead the 2014 Class. It's a tradition which is carried out every summer, the exiting juniors work hard in the weight room, practice their footwork and put in endless sprints in hopes of returning as a stud senior, the "Man." Taking the place of the previous year's captains and the others who put in the hard hours before them. Deer Valley hoops has some talent coming back, but look to twins Nsimba and Nzuzi Webster (pronounce with a silent N) to lead the way and "take the next step." They're both smallish guards, but quicker than lightning and it'll be fun to watch a team which is built around them and their unique talents. It just depends if they want to take that title and lead next year's team into the 2014 season.
Every season has its quirks and story lines, but I'll be looking for seniors to step up next year. It should be a fun ride.