Sophomore Rebecca Shapiro had a lot of work ahead of her entering this year's basketball season.
After playing a supporting role a year ago in helping Park win the AIS A Division championship, Shapiro would be assuming control of the offense in filling the Bruins' biggest void -- point guard.
However, it was a situation Shapiro was prepared for.
"I was ready to become the point guard because the team needed me there and it was a chance to improve upon my overall skill," said Shapiro.
As Park's only proven scorer and returnee among its starting five, Shapiro has had an effect on her team (7-7, 2-2) unlike most in the league.
The Bruins' up-tempo offense revolves around Shapiro, who has used her quick drives and leaping ability to average 16 points and nine rebounds. Her penetration also creates opportunities for her teammates and earns her several trips to the foul line.
"We didn't require her to be a leader last season, but she makes positive comments to the other players and has shown she can handle the pressure," said coach Robin Willard. "She's very versatile, an outstanding defensive player and has good body control once she's in the air.
Said Shapiro: "I'm always moving toward the basket so that if I don't make a shot, I'm there for a second chance or to draw a foul. You take away from your own offense if you can't rebound."
Park's offense is so dependent on Shapiro that she rarely gets a rest and opposing defenses often double- and triple-team her. ,, Yet, the extra minutes haven't taken a physical toll on Shapiro, and Willard attributes that to her improved endurance.
"Conditioning is a very big part of our team because if we don't match up with another team, we need to be able to run," Shapiro said. "I try to put in more effort in practice because if you don't now, you'll pay for it later in the season."
Shapiro, who had a season-high 29 points against Maryvale earlier in the year, had experience playing point guard on an AAU team at Park in the eighth grade. And it was then that Willard discovered just how valuable Shapiro would be at the varsity level.
"On that [AAU] team she was playing with and against kids who were sophomores and juniors and I knew she would step right in as a freshman," said Willard. "It was phenomenal to have a freshman come in last year and have that kind of impact."
Said Shapiro, "The eighth grade was the first time I played organized basketball and I played more inside because I wasn't confident with my shot. Because of my size [5-foot-8], though, I would eventually have to learn to play outside."
While Shapiro's ability has left no doubt whether she can handle such a central role, she admits she needs to use more patience in getting everyone involved.
"I know this team will take a little while to come together but I'm learning to take my time to work out plays instead of just run, run, run," said Shapiro. "I try to score when I have the opportunity but if I can find someone else, it's just as good as if I do it."