There were a lot of expectations placed on the Newton Lady Rams varsity basketball team on opening night this season.
The Lady Rams were the first team to usher in a new era of Newton basketball, in a pristine gym, in front of a raucous crowd.
While some players shy away from the spotlight, one Lady Ram thrived, as senior Deandra Reed led Newton in scoring with 15 points, including a trio of 3-pointers, as Newton knocked off rival Alcovy 57-34 in its 2013-2014 home opener.
Reed has continued her opening-game success this season, scoring in bunches for the Lady Rams, who have started off the season with a pristine 3-0 record in Region 2-AAAAAA play.
For Reed, her ability to put points on the scoreboard is not a big deal, but to the rest of the Lady Rams, her scoring is the difference between Newton being "pretty good" and Newton being intimidating.
"I really don’t look at my scoring ability as something that brings pressure to me," Reed said. "I just know that my teammates need me to score, so I just go out and try to do the best I can."
When the Lady Rams need a big bucket, Reed is usually the one they turn to. The senior guard scored 17 against rival Eastside this season and has routinely filled the stat sheet with double-figure scoring nights.
Newton coach Tiffani Johnson said that the scoring ability has been there for Reed, who broke out from her role-player position a season ago, but that there’s a little something extra in her game this season that she’d been missing before.
"Last year was her breakout year," Johnson said. "She emerged as one of the region’s top shooters and she’s only improved since then. She has wonderful post-up moves and is a very versatile player. Last year, the finished product was only in the making, but this year we’ve expected big things for her and she’s delivered."
Johnson said that Reed’s continued improvement on the offensive side of the ball has changed the way other teams defend her.
"Offensively, she made a major turnaround from her sophomore to junior year," she said. "She’s a threat from anywhere on the floor. Teams have to make sure that they’re looking for her and have to account for her the entire game. She has absorbed the game and has become a leader. She is one of the most vocal players we have. She’s done a lot to help this program."
Reed’s versatility is what sets her apart from many – the guard can score at will anywhere on the court, Johnson said, a part of her game that Reed spent much of the summer developing.
"I improved on my post moves and my shot," Reed said. "I also worked on my conditioning by running a little more this offseason and working on my quickness. I wanted to be able to get to the ball whenever I wanted to, so working on my conditioning and speed helped in that area."
Johnson said it has been comforting having a dependable player like Reed, whose scoring helps motivate her teammates.
"It’s great to have a player like her on the offensive side of the ball," Johnson said. "Having that versatility, it allows her to never get down on herself if she’s struggling in one area, and it forces the other teams to always play defense. They have to work hard if they want to try to shut her down and they have to expend some energy. It’s comforting knowing that we have her out there."
"Her teammates count on her," she said. "They want her to score. They want to see her box out and get rebounds. She’s part of our leadership group and the rest of the team looks for her every game."
While defense may not be what the Lady Rams need most out of Reed, nevertheless, she has taken on a leadership role, acting as the "mouth" for Newton’s stingy defensive unit.
"Like I said, she’s our biggest communicator, so she’s the one on defense calling screens, talking and moving everyone around," Johnson said. "She’s our eyes, ears and mouth on the floor. She has an important job
that she doesn’t take lightly."
Reed smiles when you bring defense up, relishing her role as the vocal leader, even though it wasn’t one she initially sought.
"It’s great being the vocal leader," Reed said. "It wasn’t something that I sought out – I just want to talk so that my teammates know what to do and we’re working on the same page. I don’t want them confused, and I want to put them in positions to succeed."
Reed and the Lady Rams carried a four-game win streak into the holiday break, but Johnson said that the senior isn’t limited by points, rebounds, assists, wins or losses.
"She doesn’t have a ceiling – not right now," Johnson said. "Every player has areas of their game they can work on, but I think she is well on her way. The ceiling is whatever she wants it to be. Her ceiling is wherever Deandra wants it to be because she can overcome anything and play against anybody."