One of the most important roles on a basketball team is that of the first player called off the bench to add spark to an offense.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Detroit Pistons' Vinny Johnson was that player and garnered the nickname "Microwave" because of his ability to heat up quickly and score points.
The Central Lakes College Raiders women's basketball team, which is 6-6 in the North Division and battling for a spot in the postseason, owes much of its success this season to its own "microwave," freshman Tara Storts.
"Her role has become bigger and bigger as the season has gone on," Raiders coach Dennis Eastman said. "I like to call her 'instant offense' because she comes off the bench and adds firepower. She's aggressive and a real fireball and that's what we need sometimes."
Although only a freshman, Storts has developed into an outspoken leader on and off the court. Dennis Eastman said Storts isn't afraid to speak her mind and doesn't shy away from disagreeing with her coach every now and then.
After a 3-year varsity career at Dassel-Cokato High School, Storts has had no problem making the adjustment from starter to top reserve.
"I've liked it," Storts said about coming off the bench. "I've learned to accept my role so it hasn't been a big deal."
Even though she's not a starter, Storts is the second-leading scorer for the Raiders at 11.6 points per game and leads the team in assists, averaging more than 3.0 a game. Storts is also the top free-throw shooter in the North Division at 77 percent.
Storts' success in her first season at CLC can be attributed to a shooting style that is best described as fearless. She bought into Eastman's philosophy of shooting when you're on or until you get on a roll.
"I know that I'm a shooter and I feel that I can drive to the basket pretty well and draw fouls," Storts said about her offensive prowess.
That fearlessness was never more evident then when Storts scored 26 points against Vermilion Jan. 19, a few days after suffering a cut on her leg that required 16 stitches when she ran into the bleachers.
Eastman also believes Storts has a tendency to sometimes become too anxious on offense, resulting in rushed shots.
"She's not afraid to shoot the ball, which is good," he said. "If she slows down her shot, and the energy within herself, then she's a much more relaxed player. It's a process of learning to just slow down, but she's getting it."
On the defensive end, Storts' play has been stellar. She is third on the team in steals and has committed the second-fewest fouls. But Storts realizes that defense is something she still needs to work on.
"I just need to get up and play closer defense on people and use my feet better," she said.
Although only a freshman, Storts has developed into an outspoken leader on and off the court. Eastman said Storts isn't afraid to speak her mind and doesn't shy away from disagreeing with her coach every now and then.
"She understands that it's OK to disagree with me because it gives me another point of view," Eastman said. "She's going to say what she has to say and to me that's a good quality."
Despite her injuries, adjusting to a new role and a slow start as a team this season, Storts has kept her chin up and is proud of the way the team has come together as it makes a push for the state playoffs.
"I've just tried to stay positive," said Storts. "A lot of us realized that we only have one more year to play, so we've appreciated it more.
"As a team, we've been showing a lot of heart lately. I think we've gotten to know each other on and off the court. We know each other's strengths and that's helped."
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