Junior Kathleen Stafford does all the little things that give her Mount Hebron basketball team a chance to win. Her coach, Scott Robinson, can't say enough good things about her.
"She's a great athlete with good foot speed," Robinson said. "And she's the most explosive kid on the team. Last year, too, she was one of the first players off the bench. I can use her anywhere. She's a starting guard-forward. She's strong and quick and does all the things that don't show up in the box score. And she is very well liked."
Stafford averages 3.9 assists, 5.4 rebounds, 4.6 steals and 4.3 points for the Vikings, who are 9-2 after a 28-0 record and a state title last season. She also has a 3.5 grade point average and plays soccer and lacrosse in addition to basketball.
Your coach says you are the team's unsung hero. Can you talk a little bit about your role?
My role is definitely defense. I don't have much to do with the offensive game. I only have about four points a game, if that. I base my game off defense. It's basically hustle.
Has it always been that way?
I guess it has always been that way. I was in fourth grade, maybe 8 or 9 years old; I played rec ball. I had a friend on my soccer team who played, and her dad coached, and I played for that team. So I got into it. I liked it because it was a fast-paced game. There was a lot of adrenaline. It was just fun.
If you were sitting down with a friend and wanted to tell them why you like basketball, what story or experience would you relate to them? What would you tell them makes this sport special?
I guess tradition. We've always had great teams here at Hebron, and I think everyone who comes into the basketball program and plays for Robinson knows we have high expectations to practice hard and play hard.
Has that resulted in achievement?
Yeah, last year it definitely paid off. We won the state championship. It was my favorite season in any sport. All the team chemistry and unity and how close we were and winning the state championship was a lot of fun. My freshman year, I got pulled up for varsity lacrosse, and that team won the championship, but I didn't really have a role in that. I was basically called up to practice with them.
But last year, with the basketball team, my role was to give the starters a little breather and get fresh legs in. The practices were really intense, but the coaches always made them fun. We were really a close group, and there were no problems. That's really kind of rare. Usually there are problems with playing time and points scored and people's stats. But no one complained last year. Sometimes when you lose, you question abilities, who's playing, who's not playing, who should be playing. Last year, the winning helped, but we all got along with each other. We were all team-oriented, not just selfish and trying to get our own stats. We had a lot of senior leadership. I was learning the ropes. I looked up to the seniors a lot last year. We went 28-0.
Did you feel differently about yourself coming back this year after such a wonderful season?
I had a little more confidence. I'm more clear on my role and on what I'm supposed to do. You always want to strive to do better than the year before. We lost our streak early this season, losing 44-41 to Howard. Some girls cried, but we were still on a high from winning last year, and you have to experience losing to really appreciate what we did. You can't win all the time. Losing is part of the game.
Does anyone in your family give you basketball advice?
My dad. He didn't even play in high school. He played everything else. But he sometimes knows what he's talking about. He always tells me "E, E - elbow, eye" to help with my follow-through. I have trouble keeping my arm straight, and he tells me to line my elbow up with my eye to keep my elbow straight when I'm shooting.
Have you thought about what you want to do after high school?
Yeah. I know I do not want to play sports in college. Maybe club sport, but not the school's team sports. I know I couldn't get a scholarship to a D-I school in basketball, and playing a sport in college is like a job from what I hear. I don't think there would be any point. But I love soccer, so I'd really like to play club soccer or club basketball.
And I think I want to major in nursing - or maybe teaching. I haven't settled on that yet. Teaching, I like helping people, and I think it would be fun to help kids understand things at the high school level. Nursing, it's helping people, and there are a lot of good job opportunities. My sister Jessica is majoring in nursing at [James Madison University]. I guess she's part of the reason I'm thinking about nursing, too. Last semester she got a 3.8, which is really hard to do. We talk about it, about how you have to work really hard and dedicate your time to it.
Do you have other activities you participate in at Hebron?
I'm in the National Honor Society, and I'm editor of the yearbook, Valhalla. The teachers asked me if I would be up for the job, and I thought it would look good on the resume. I like writing, and it has been a lot of fun doing the interviews.
Do you think you have a chance to make the playoffs and repeat as champions?
I think we have a decent chance. We're a good team. We do have a lot of new players this year, but we have a good chance.