Bobcats share leadership styles through hustle and emotion
Garrett Chumley and Shae Sawalich are both leaders on the basketball court, if not on the stat sheet. Neither of them leads their respective teams in points, rebounds or assists this season, yet both their coaches consider them "glue" players, or the ones who do whatever is needed to hold their teams together.
Chumley and Sawalich are different players with different skill sets, but one thing is absolutely constant with both of them: hustle. If someone's diving out of bounds to save a loose ball at a Bobcats game, it's probably Chumley. If one of the Lady 'Cats chases down an opponent from behind and pokes the ball free, chances are it's Sawalich.
"I enjoy taking on that role," Sawalich said. "I do it with the help of my teammates, mainly. Without them motivating me I wouldn't be able to hustle as much."
Chumley and Sawalich are both great at doing the little things that don't show up in the score book, but really fire up their teams. In a game earlier this year Sawalich set herself and took a charging foul. Then, on the very next possession, she took another, causing the entire BLHS bench to leap up and go nuts.
If anyone kept track of charges taken Sawalich might lead the Kaw Valley League. Her knack for drawing offensive fouls has been huge this year, as she's often been called upon to guard taller players. The 5-foot-5 Sawalich rarely blocks shots, so taking a charge is sometimes her only option defensively. But that's generally more productive than a block anyway; a charging foul ensures a change of possession and also has the potential to get opponents in foul trouble.
Some players would rather avoid the contact that comes with an offensive foul, but Sawalich has shown time and again that she's not afraid. She said the key to taking a charge is fairly simple.
"First, set your mind to it, and then just do it," she said.
Chumley's game is different, if just as intense. He's more offensive-minded, owning one of his team's most reliable mid-range jumpers. Lately he's even extended his range out to the three-point line, making his first four attempts this year. But he's shown that he's willing to give that up for the team.
"At the Imac game the other night he shot a couple threes before halftime, and went one of two," BLHS coach Mike McBride said. "At halftime he came up to me and said, 'Coach, what do I need to do to help us win?' And I said, 'Quit shooting threes.' He had a couple opportunities to shoot it in the second half and never did; he moved the ball around, didn't force anything, and you know, it was a big reason why we won. So, it's the little things like that that he's done this year that nobody sees."
It's obvious Chumley has a passion for defense, too. Besides Jacob Schierbaum, he's the only real post defender in the Bobcats' eight-man rotation. That means the 6-foot-2 Chumley is usually guarding a taller player, and when Schierbaum goes out, he usually faces the opponents' tallest player, a role that has been an adjustment for the senior.
"He knew he didn't know how to play post defense or post offense, but he also knew that he was the second-tallest player on the team, so he was going to have to learn," McBride said.
Against the giants Chumley does the only thing he can defensively: he pushes and prods them off the block and flies around in front of them to deny passes. He's done it so well that, with the exception of one or two games, a Bobcats team that is short on size hasn't been hurt much in the post.
"If we're in our 2-3 zone, I make sure I let the two wing guys know that they need to talk to me," Chumley said. "When we're in man I just try to use my speed to stay in front of them... and then make sure I let the guys know behind me that they need to stay for help in case they can get a lob pass over me. I just try to make sure there's enough communication."
Chumley has also shown he's willing to go all out to save a possession. Against Bonner Springs he ran down an airball that seemed sure to go out of bounds and flipped it over his head to Austin Knipp for a layup. Sawalich has shown a similar ability to secure loose balls, not only because of her hustle, but because her slight frame hides surprising power.
"If there's a loose ball and a bunch of players are fighting for it, Shae will be the one who comes up with it," BLHS coach Tami Holthus said. "She's strong."
Chumley and Sawalich are both leaders because their hustle inspires their teammates and they're also de facto leaders because they're among the oldest players on their teams. Chumley is one of three seniors and Sawalich is a junior on a team with no seniors. That means they're partly responsible for keeping everyone ready to play, a role they take seriously.
Holthus said that when the Lady 'Cats are on a big run and getting really keyed up, Sawalich is the one who often tries to calm everyone down, get them in the huddle and make sure they're listening.
On the other hand, Chumley is often the one who ignites the emotion for his team when it's lagging, with his competitive fire and enthusiasm for the game.
Though Sawalich and Chumley sometimes go about it in different ways, there's no question that both are leaders whenever their BLHS teams take the floor.