Riley Popplewell is hardly menacing on the bowling lanes, but the South Central freshman center is quite formidable in the free-throw lane.
In her first prep campaign, she leads the Satellites in scoring (14.2), rebounds (12.6) and steals (3.2). She's also third in assists (1.8) and she's either scored or rebounded in double figures in nine games for the Satellites (7-3).
"I think she's progressed further than what I thought," South Central coach Rick Budka said of Popplewell. "She's held her composure really well. She's the most aggressive and biggest hustler on the team."
The 6-foot Popplewell is not just relegated to post play. She defended play-making guards Blayr Poston (Hanover Central) and Heather Burton (Washington Township) in Porter County Conference action.
"I liked the challenge," Popplewell said. "I had to be ready to move on the balls of my feet."
Popplewell also has a ball off the court, which helps endear her to classmates and older players on the team. During a team-building trip to local bowling alley two weeks ago, Popplewell's lack of bowling skills were on display. Everyone -- including Popplewell -- got a kick out of the experience.
"If she rolls a 260, it would have been, 'She's good at this, too,'" Budka said. "Everyone was laughing. It was just about having a great time."
"I think it made us closer," Popplewell added. "It was a way to make the season even more fun."
Popplewell also gets smiles with her work ethic. She lives on a farm, and she uses some of those principles with her practice regimen.
"You cannot be lazy," she said. "You have to be ready to work for something to be able to get something out of it."
Popplewell hit the ground running with the squad, taking part in the summer program and playing all 20 games.
"I got the opportunity to play with the team and kind of know what to expect," she said. "I was more ready."
Along the way, she has developed strong bonds with junior three-year starter Jill Rosenbaum (12.6 ppg), and classmates like guard Morgan Wright (6.7).
"(Rosenbaum) knows what I am going through," Popplewell said. "She's there to encourage me.
"Morgan is one of my best friends, and we've always played basketball together. She's in the same position I'm in."
In possibly the team's toughest challenge so far this season, Popplewell was the crucial element in a 68-63 win at Hanover Central. She had a personal-best 27 points, and she feels compelled to strive for more.
"That definitely showed what I could do; I could reach a level of playing really well," she said. "I just still have to keep going good to help the team."