FLOSSMOOR | Last week at practice, Homewood-Flossmoor coach Tony Smith decided to play a simple game to make a simple point.
Full-court scrimmage, first team to make three baskets wins. Losers run.
The point? Take good shots.
"It shouldn't take that," senior guard Amarah Coleman said. "But it does."
And apparently, what it takes took.
The top-ranked Vikings (12-2) went back to Bolingbrook last week and beat the Raiders 88-47 as Coleman had 28 points.
Coleman, for one, wasn't looking wistfully back. She attended Bolingbrook last year.
"H-F? It's great. Everybody's nice. I love everybody here," she said. "Most important, I love my team."
Even if it wasn't love at first sight.
H-F has a 17-player roster. Only seven of those players were on the Vikings varsity last season. Seven, counting two freshmen, joined the team this season from other schools.
Last week, a lawsuit was field by a student-athlete alleging recruiting by Smith.
"There was a point where we clashed with who's going to take what shots," Coleman said. "What Coach Smith always tells us, 'You have to earn it.'
"That's why, after practice, you see us all put up extra shots. You never know when your time is going to come, so you have to be prepared to make those shots. If you don't come in and hit them, he's going to the next (player)."
Smith may have used his running gambit to emphasize that point, but he also used the Illinois-bound Coleman to help make it.
Perhaps, as the team leader in scoring (13 points per game) assists (3) and steals (2), as well as a recent nominnee to the McDonald's All-American Game roster, she was a natural choice. Yet, taking the reins didn't exactly come naturally.
"She's first in sprints, she's first in points, she's first in everything. But now, to take her game to the next level, to make sure her team has the success she wants, she also has to learn how to bring a team together," Smith said. "That's still a work in progress.
"It's tough. She's got 16 other girls. Any time you look at it and say you're outnumbered by that many kids, sometimes being that leader is tough. But the great ones find a way to get it done."
"At first, she tried to wait on me to get it done," Smith said. "I told her 'Peer pressure counts a lot more than what coach is going to say.'
"Then, she tried to get on them a little bit. And then she tried to go along with what everybody else was doing, and she saw that wasn't going to work, so now she's starting to be a little bit more positive, more outgoing. She's finally starting to turn that corner, to see what works. It's a little bit of this, a little bit of that,"
Coleman agreed, saying, "You have to be both good cop and bad cop. You have to know your personnel. If you don't, you may get the wrong one and they go off on you back. The main goal that point guard/leader should have is to know your personnel on the court and off the court."
On the court, Coleman's teammates know to look for her to deliver the ball, even when she's attacking the rim.
"That's my game, that's what I have to do," Coleman said. "Usually, when I'm attacking the basket, I'm looking for the open player and creating open shots for the shooters."
Of course, Coleman is capable of much more. Perhaps not quite the 5-foot-10 at which she's listed, Coleman is quick, long and deceptively strong.
"I think she's a Player of the Year type of player, she's a McDonald's All-American nominee type of kid because she's got some things that help a team win," Smith said. "She has that 'it' factor. She can hit a shot, she can defend, she can rebound. She can do some of everything and she's willing to do whatever it takes to win.
"Her biggest thing and what separates her from a lot of people is she doesn't care about the stat line. She cares more about if her team is No. 1."