Call them Munchkins.
Just don’t think that size is the be all, end all of the trio of diminutive guards who will guide the Hiland Lady Hawks this season.
Senior Kendra Schlabach and juniors Emily Yoder and Jenica Schrock aren’t very tall. Standing at 5-foot-2-inches, all three are on the wrong side of average size when it comes to a game which loves height.
But crack them open, and what you would find is a gigantic helping of heart, and plenty of smarts to go along with it.
Welcome to the inside-out world of Hiland Lady Hawks hoops in 2012-2013, where the measure of a player is not on the outside, but on the inside that counts.
“These are the kids I have looked forward to coaching since biddy ball because of their heart,” said coach Dave Schlabach. “I’ll take as many of these kids as I can get, I don’t care how tall they are. They are three pretty special kids.
“I know they will work hard and go to battle, and these are fun years to coach. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to beat big, good teams, but it won’t be for lack of effort.”
Listed at 5-foot-5-inches in the program last season, but in reality standing about three inches shorter, the trio of Lady Hawks Munchkin guards rib each other about who actually stands taller.
As the senior, Schlabach figures it is hers to claim, although all three would have problems peaking over a five-foot wall on their tiptoes.
But the one feature that can’t be measured by a yardstick is heart, and these three have shown plenty of that over the past two years, battling much bigger foes and coming out ahead.
“I think it earns respect,” said Kendra Schlabach of playing with passion. “I don’t think anyone is going to look at you as a leader if you don’t have that, no matter how big you are. If people know that you don’t care and aren’t willing to put forth every effort, they aren’t going to care what you have to say in practice or in the huddle.”
Yoder seemed to grow up in front of the hometown crowd last year at the Classic In the Country, where she took on players of enormous talent and played right with them.
From then on, Yoder seemed to seize a huge leadership role, and will be counted on this year to exemplify exactly what a leader should do on and off the floor.
“It can be tough, there can be a lot on your shoulders when your team messes up, because it all starts with you,” said Yoder of leading the Lady Hawks. “But I like having that responsibility. If you have passion for what you are doing, then I think other people respond to that.”
Undersized, maybe, but Yoder said feeling sorry for yourself and wishing you were bigger doesn’t get the job done. She said that you simply have to believe in yourself, and that can overcome any shortcomings.
“You can’t fear your opponent or you will end up making mistakes,” said Yoder of facing the pressures of big games. “It’s important to approach every game with confidence.”
As a freshman, Schrock was having a fantastic preseason, looking more than ready to step in and contribute. However she blew out her ACL right before the season, and faced the horrifying prospect of rehab.
She did so with a vengeance, and attended games and practices like she was going to be playing.
It took awhile, but by the end of her sophomore season, Coach Schlabach said that the old Jenica had returned.
“It was so hard to sit and watch us play knowing I couldn’t,” said Schrock on her rehab assignment. “You want to go in so badly. It tears you up because you can’t help your team, but that just motivated me and made me want to work that much harder.”
That attitude is much of what drives this year’s team, and Schrock said that all of the Lady Hawks realize they need to have that drive to be successful.
“We don’t like to be outdone by other people,” said Schrock. “If we have to work harder, then we will do it.”
Known as a game fit perfectly for the giants of the world, basketball does have certain built-in advantages for those who were blessed with height.
That means that night in, night out, the tiny mights of Hiland must prove themselves to every foe they face.
“It’s all about heart and determination. I don’t see a deficit in height. I see an advantage in speed and quickness,” said Schlabach, who added with a chuckle, “I feel sorry for those slower big people.”
The three guards will utilize that speed and quickness in an all-out assault on opponents this year, running people up and down the court, trapping, basically wreaking havoc, applying pressure as though the hounds of hell have been unleashed.
Since all three have been a part of the varsity program for their entire careers, the experienced trio are now ready to go out and show the world how plenty of heart, skills and will can overcome a height deficiency.
“Experience, knowledge of the game, understanding what needs to be done, that is what makes you better,” said Yoder.
That is, in the end, how these three will ultimately be measured.