Ford City junior transforms into post presence
By Bill West
Published: Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, 12:51 a.m.
From the way she pops open at the right moments to the way she pivots with the basketball and pump-fakes to fool defenders, Ford City junior Allyson Cujas is a smooth operator in the paint.
But before the 5-foot-10 forward developed into one of Armstrong County's best post presences, she dealt with her physical limitations and fears.
Cujas, Ford City's leading scorer (15.1 ppg) and rebounder (9.0 rpg), has learned to embrace the subtle pushing and bumping that goes on below the backboard. She once viewed herself as too lanky and frail to thrive that close to the hoop. But as she matured and built muscle early in her high school career, Cujas, capable of handling guard responsibilities, began to consider the paint her favorite place on the court.
“At first, it wasn't like this for me,” she said. “I used to be a very weak player. I always remember that when I look at what I do now.
“I don't want to say I love the rough play, but I love how it's really competitive down in the post, and I know you have to fight for what you want to do.”
Ford City coach Al Davis remembers the fifth-grade version of Cujas: All arms and legs, a bit awkward athletically. But, with her father's encouragement, she devoted herself to the sport. Cujas studied instructional DVDs made by Ganon Baker, a former standout guard at Duquesne in 1991-92. While other young girls showed up at open gyms simply to shoot around, Cujas went through structured drills that Patrick Cujas supervised.
“Ally is somebody that has always had to work hard,” Davis said. “She's not like the natural athlete. So her dedication to the game and her working hard every year have made the difference. You actually have to tell her not to work so much, slow her down a little bit.”
By eighth grade, Cujas grew strong enough to physically contend with opposing big girls. But she still needed to mentally embrace the idea of playing tough in the post.
A relentless self-critic, Cujas forced herself to adjust rather than settle in as a tall guard, where she showed promise because of her dribbling and shooting skills. Involvement with AAU programs allowed her to encounter other tall, talented players, who provided competition and encouragement.
“I started to work past that initial fear and that resentment toward getting contact and getting physical and turned it into something where it's like, ‘Hey, this is kind of fun,' ” she said.
“You have to be hard on yourself. It's probably bad how hard I am on myself, but if you want to be good at something and want to improve, you've got to be at least a little hard on yourself.”
As a freshman, Cujas averaged 1.7 points and 1.7 rebounds per game. Last season, those totals increased to 11.1 and 6.3.
Her transformation into a game-changing forward is far from complete. Davis desires more toughness, both physically and mentally. Cujas still considers herself undersized for the position, particularly compared to college-level players.
To play at the next level is a priority for Cujas, who wants to balance athletics with an academic prowess that has her ranked first in Ford City's junior class. Division II and III programs already have expressed interest.
Though comfortable and confident in the post, Cujas is serious about ensuring her inside game continues to evolve.
“Ever since I was little, it's been an uphill battle with basketball,” she said. “It's that challenge about it that I love, just the fact that I have to keep working at it to be good at what I do.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter at @BWest_Trib.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- TJ boys hang on despite foul trouble
- ‘Lucky’ Monessen survives in 2 OTs
- Woytovich makes 5-AA first team
- Karns City’s defense shines in PIAA first-round victory
- Free-throw shooting keys Fox Chapel’s opening-round win
- North Allegheny girls enjoy ‘bounce back’ win over WPIAL champion Penn-Trafford
- Minnie paces Lincoln Park in PIAA opening-round rout of Johnsonburg
- Derry’s Phillippi upset in PIAA quarterfinals
- Fast start again fuels Hempfield girls to victory
- Burrell girls eye improvement even after easy win in PIAA opener
- PIAA boys basketball roundup: Chartiers Valley pulls out first-round victory