David Mitchell commentary: Underclassmen making impact in athletics

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comMarch 26, 2014 

In sports, experience is often equated with success.

Yes, talent is important, but so many times we see less talented teams overcome that shortcoming with cohesiveness and maturity.

Not far down the road, the Mercer University men’s basketball team just showed what five seniors can do to one of the most storied programs in college basketball history, upsetting Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Obviously, experience matters.

It occurred to me recently, though, how many freshmen and sophomores we have seen make an impact in the Bi-City area in athletics this year. Not just performing well in games of little importance, but leading teams into the playoffs and in state championships and big region showdowns.

Most recently, we saw Columbus freshman Gigi Schorr lead her Lady Blue Devils soccer team to a 5-1 win over No. 5 Alexander with a hat trick. She scored another goal in a 6-0 win over Brookstone on Tuesday. So did fellow freshman Kimberly May.

The Columbus girls basketball team, while led by key seniors Jacqueria Gunter and Alexia Manning, nonetheless got key contributions from freshmen Tatyana Wyatt and Ariyah Copeland en route to a state runner-up finish in Class AAAA.

Northside’s leading scorer in boys basketball was sophomore Davion Thomas, and the girls team made the second round of the state tournament with three sophomore starters.

Calvary Christian boys basketball was also led by a sophomore, Jeffery Scott. Sophomore L.D. Jones led Jordan basketball to a second-half resurgence this season, advancing to the playoffs despite losing the large majority of its production from last season.

Take it further back into the football season, and you’ll see sophomore Lorenzo Smothers making an impact in Marion County’s Class A public state championship win or Jawon Pass leading the Carver offense into the state quarterfinals and earning All-Bi-City offensive player of the year honors along the way.

The list could go on.

Does it change the importance of experience? Absolutely not. Asked their preference, coaches will still tell you an experienced squad will see success at a higher frequency than the alternative. Especially in high school.

But to join a varsity high school team as a freshman when you lack the size of those two and three years older than you and still find a way to succeed at a high level is impressive.

The question is whether this is a sign of things to come in high school sports. Children get started at a younger age and the resources they have now are far beyond what was available in the past.

Passing camps, summer leagues, personal coaches and trainers — all are likely contributors to the success of younger players.

I expect that to be on full display once again as spring sports like baseball enter the bulk of their region and postseason schedules.

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