MERRILLVILLE | The Merrillville Pirates took a break from Monday's practice and a little fun chatter started to fly.
Senior Zoran Talley ended up standing by Pirates' coach T.J. Lux, who is 6-foot-8. Several Merrillville players started laughing and saying that Talley was just as tall as Lux.
When the swing player arrived on Broadway as a freshman he was 5-foot-7. Last year Talley stood 6-foot-2 on the sectional champion Bucs.
Now, though, he can almost look Lux in the eye. He is just under 6-foot-6 and still plays the guard position in the offense.
Talley had a method to his growth madness. He had a plan.
"I used to stretch every night before I went to bed," Talley said. "I drank some milk, too. And some Oreos."
The late-night sweetness of his game has been remarkable. After breaking his wrist this summer and missing most of the AAU season, Talley's game has risen up high.
He's averaging 14.3 points, five rebounds, 2.5 steals and two assists for The Times No. 2 Pirates. And he's shooting 36 percent from beyond the arc.
"Zoran's freshman and sophomore year he looked at himself as a shooter," Lux said. "Now, he understands that he can take it to the rim. It's been great to see.
"This is the story of Zoran's growth on and off the court."
In ninth grade Talley was disciplined for several poor choices. Talley said, "I was goofy. I was a freshman."
Lux remembers how Talley was one of those guys three-plus years ago who coaches needed to call to make sure he'd arrive for practice. Lesson learned. He is now one of the first Pirates to walk in the gym every day.
This maturation made higher marks on the wall at home, too.
His sophomore sister, Jaz Talley, was on junior varsity last year on Amy Govert's girls basketball team at Merrillville. The big brother didn't notice.
"I didn't really pay too much attention," Talley said. "This year she's starting varsity. I go to as many games as I can. I didn't realize she was this good."
The two are following in their father's footsteps. The 1982 Wirt graduate played football, basketball and baseball for the Troopers. The big brother and little sister used to hoop together in the olden days.
"There was a court in front of our grandma's house," Talley said. "We used to love to play there."
The Pirates play at Lake Central on Saturday night as the season begins its final bend. This is a very talented team. Talley is one of several Pirates who can be called on to win a game.
He's the only one, however, who's grown almost 10 inches since walking in the door.
"The first half of the season we tried to figure out the things we do well," Lux said. "Everything we're doing is looking at March. We know we have weaknesses and we're working on those. We're OK with where we're at.
"We just all know that we have to get better."
Perhaps the Pirates are all drinking milk and Oreos at bed time.