Southmoreland sophomore forward finishes strong season
As the Southmoreland girls basketball team continues its improvement, a key ingredient in the mix this year was sophomore forward Julea Claycomb.
She has started each of the last two seasons for Brian Pritts's ballclub and has contributed mightily. As a sophomore, Claycomb paced the Scotties in points and rebounds, scoring a shade under 10 points a game (9.2) and grabbing 11 rebounds a contest. She also chipped in with 30 steals.
“Julea's a gamer,” Pritts said. “She loves to play, (she's) strong, strong-willed. She's very physical and that's one of her biggest attributes. When you're physical in the girls' game, a lot of times girls don't like that and they shy away from it, but Julea doesn't shy away from contact.”
Claycomb, 16, has been playing basketball since sixth grade and was kind of nudged to the sport by former Southmoreland coach Kim Jacobs and her godfather, Derek Robinson — a one-time player at Geibel High School.
She is involved in a number of other sports, such as slow-pitch softball, track and soccer. However, she said she enjoys basketball the most. It's a sport she initially found “boring.”
“I learned to love the game,” she said. “The intensity and how you come together as a team (is why I love it).”
The 5-foot, 8-inch sophomore is quick to admit there is intensity in her game.
“I'm physical, I know that,” she said even sporting a bit of a smile as the words came out of her mouth. “I love to shoot. I got better outside than I was last year.”
She wants to continue to work to become even a better shooter and plans to work on her ballhandling as she prepares for the 2014-15 season.
One area of Claycomb's game which is a strength is rebounding, as evidenced by her averaging double digits on the boards each contest.
“She does a nice job positioning herself on the floor,” Pritts said. “I look at her as one of those old-school rebounders like (NBA Hall-of Famers) Dennis Rodman or Charles Barkley, a little bit undersized for the position, but just does a good job of putting a body in the right place and boxing out.”
Claycomb has an eye on playing at the collegiate level, while studying nursing.
Pritts said her future is bright.
“She has to continue to grow and continue to learn,” Pritts said. “As long as she continues to be a sponge and is willing to grasp everything we're willing to throw at her, her game is going to continue to improve.”
Claycomb credits Robinson for his continuous support. She's also quick to note that her mother, April Banko, has been very instrumental in any success she may have on the basketball court.
“She's very supportive,” Claycomb said of her mother. “She pushes me. If I don't want to go to a practice, she pushes me to go.”
Claycomb was a valuable member of a team that amassed nine wins just two seasons after notching only one and seeing the program teeter on the brink of extinction.
“We became better as a team,” Claycomb explained. “Everything laced together like a shoe. We focused more on the little things than usual. This year, all of us hung out and it made us more of a team than we were last year.”
As her high school career continues, Claycomb has some simple, yet lofty, goals.
She'd like to see the team find its way back into the postseason.
“I know the eighth graders coming up this year are pretty (good) because coach worked with them in the middle school,” Claycomb said. “By their freshman year, they should be good.”
As for herself, “I want to get to 1,000 (career) rebounds,” Claycomb said with a purpose.
She has collected 430 in her first two years .
It's obvious Claycomb is itching for next season.
“I wish we had our seniors,” Claycomb said of five graduating teammates. “If we had our seniors it would be very intense, better than this year, because you build up the team.”
Paul Paterra is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-887-6101 or email@example.com.