Mickale Bates rarely leaves the court for the Pickerington High School North girls basketball team, whether during a game or after practice.
As not only the Panthers' point guard but also a member of the latest generation of a basketball-loving family, Bates wouldn't have it any other way.
"I like to put up at least 100 shots a day and then work on ball-handling just so I can keep myself together," said Bates, a 5-foot-4 senior and third-year starter who has committed to play for Ohio Christian University. "I just want to get myself better in that 'off' time so it translates onto the court come game time. I have a lot of responsibility to put in the most work so I can help my teammates."
Bates was averaging 6.9 points through 12 games, helping the Panthers to records of 6-6 overall before playing Hilliard Davidson on Jan. 15 and 4-2 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering a Friday, Jan. 18, game at defending Division I state champion Pickerington Central.
After averaging six points through North's first four games, Bates averaged 8.3 in her next seven, although that is less important to her than helping guide her teammates through first-year coach Silas Williams' more up-tempo offense.
"I'm fine whether I'm scoring or getting the ball to my teammates and helping them get a good feel for the game," Bates said.
"You'll never see Kale not playing hard," guard Avery Hart said. "She's the first one in and the last one out. She is the hardest worker that I know. Her leadership skills have come a long way. Freshman year, she was kind of quiet, but she realized if she was going to help our team out, she needed to step up and she's done that. She's only gotten better over the years."
Bates is the oldest daughter of North boys basketball coach Jason Bates. Her younger sister, sophomore Mayson Bates, is a forward for the Panthers who won a Division I district championship in the high jump last year for the girls track and field team and is a sprinter and hurdler.
Their paternal grandfather, Leroy Bates, amassed a 251-114 career record in 24 seasons coaching high school basketball in Toledo, and an uncle, Michael Bates, is in the 13th season of a successful run as Africentric's boys coach.
Michael and Jason Bates started The Challenge, an annual day-long boys basketball event that alternates between Africentric and North, before the 2016-17 season.
"Kale does so much work that nobody sees," Williams said. "The communication is there with her. She's just naturally quiet. The more she grows in the game, she's going to be a pretty good player, especially if she starts hitting her 3s consistently.
"She's very good at the distribution part and pushing the ball in transition. Her teammates take some pressure off her having to have big games. I'd like to see her have some double-figure nights, but she knows if she doesn't get it, somebody else will pick up that slack. As she grows more and they gain more confidence in each other, that will help us overall."
North, which began the second half of OCC-Ohio play with a 38-20 win over Grove City on Jan. 11, will try to snap an eight-game losing streak against Central. The Panthers trail the all-time series 16-7.
Hart had eight points to lead North in a 73-29 home loss to the Tigers on Dec. 7.
Boys basketball team preps for rematch
Both of the boys basketball team's losses entering the week were against state-ranked competition, and the Panthers have the chance to avenge one of them Friday, Jan. 18, when they visit second-ranked Central to begin the second half of OCC-Ohio play.
North was 9-2 overall before playing Logan on Jan. 15 and is 4-1 in the league. The Panthers lost to the Tigers 80-67 on Dec. 7 despite 21 points from Hunter Shedenhelm and 19 from Jack Sawyer.
North split two games last week, falling to seventh-ranked Dublin Coffman 72-66 on Jan. 8 before beating host Grove City 78-51 on Jan. 11 in OCC-Ohio play.
Sawyer had a game-high 22 points against the Shamrocks and a game-high 26 against the Greyhounds.
The loss to Coffman snapped a six-game winning streak.
"(Losing to Central early) gave us time to improve and we've been able to move forward well," forward Chris Scott said. "We know what we have to do. Every night, we're going to get everybody's best shot."
Central leads the all-time series 16-6.
Wrestlers prepare for home invitational
Wrestling coach Derek Oney is excited for his first Panther Invitational on Saturday, Jan. 19. It's an event that he hopes will grow from its current 12 teams over the next few years.
Rounding out the field are Bloom-Carroll, Canal Winchester, Dublin Jerome, Hilliard Bradley, Mount Vernon, New Albany, Pickerington Central, Upper Arlington, Westerville Central, Westerville South and Whetstone.
UA won the tournament last year, scoring 217 points to finish first of 14 teams, ahead of runner-up Bradley (198).
"In my opinion, the frontrunner (to win this weekend) would be Upper Arlington," Oney said. "They have a nice team returning with some kids that have experience on the state level. They also have large numbers and I would anticipate they will have some extras in the tournament that are quality wrestlers as well. They are deep in the lightweights and are competitive all the way through their lineup."
Oney added that he would like to increase the field to approximately 16 teams by next year and someday have a large enough field that the tournament could span two days.
North began OCC-Ohio competition with two wins Jan. 10, defeating host Gahanna 40-31 and Reynoldsburg 60-15. That snapped a seven-match losing streak in the league dating to the 2016-17 season.
Below are the coming schedules for the North boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling, swimming & diving and wrestling teams:
*Jan. 18 -- At Pickerington Central. The Panthers lost to the Tigers 80-67 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- At Groveport
*Jan. 18 -- At Pickerington Central. The Panthers lost to the Tigers 73-29 on Dec. 7.
Jan. 22 -- Home vs. Groveport
*Jan. 17 -- Lancaster at Tiki Lanes
Jan. 19 -- Central District Preview at Columbus Square Bowling Palace
*Jan. 22 -- Hilliard Davidson at Ten Pin Alley
SWIMMING & DIVING
Jan. 18 -- At Columbus School for Girls with St. Charles
Jan. 19 -- Presidential Pentathlon at Ohio Wesleyan
Jan. 19 -- Panther Invitational at home