Pickerington Central girls basketball player Aarionna Redman can't compliment teammate Jocelyn Tate highly enough for what Tate long has considered the crux of her game.
"Jocelyn is the heart of our defense," said Redman, a forward/guard. "We base everything on how well she's playing, how many steals she is getting. She is our core because she is so athletic. She can get any ball. She can steal anything that comes her way."
But even as Tate acknowledges that her defensive prowess has made her an integral part of the Tigers' lineup since her freshman season, the 5-foot-10 junior forward takes pride in growing on the other side of the ball and realizes her production there could be key to her future in the game.
"Each year, my role gets bigger and bigger," Tate said. "I have been scoring more. I have been making a lot of steals and rebounds on defense and I think I am helping more on both ends of the court. Now, I am doing both parts.
"I can shoot, but I think my strongest moves come from attacking the basket. I like to go into contact and get the foul even if I miss the shot. I like to go to the line. I am trying to shoot more. I want to show it more this year."
Tate is averaging 9.7 points, 11.9 rebounds, 4.0 steals and 4.0 assists for Central, which is 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the OCC-Ohio Division entering a Friday, Dec. 20, home game against Reynoldsburg.
"We've asked her to do so much," coach Johnathan Hedgepeth said. "The first couple games, we saw a lot of double-teaming and people trying to send two people at our guards, so it helped a lot to have Jocelyn to be able to relieve some of that. When (opponents) have a bigger forward or a wing guarding them, (Redman and Tate) handle the ball very well and they are able to alleviate pressure because those forwards and centers can't guard them."
Tate is the youngest of a basketball family that includes former Central boys standouts Jae'Sean and Jalen Tate and their sister, Jada. Their father is former Ohio State player Jermaine Tate.
Jae'Sean Tate helped lead Central's boys team to the 2012 Division I state championship and went on to play at Ohio State. Jalen plays at Northern Kentucky and Jada, now a freshman at Tiffin, was on the girls' 2018 Division I state title team and last year's state runner-up squad.
"Her potential is so great because she embodies something from all three of them," Hedgepeth said of Jocelyn. "That is what makes her special. She has Jae'Sean's aggressiveness and wheels all over the floor, Jalen's athleticism and length and Jada had great footwork and technique. Maybe being the youngest, it helped her watching her siblings and picking up a little bit of everything."
Jocelyn Tate agreed that her game is a mixture of those of her older siblings.
"I, for sure, have Jae'Sean's toughness and Jalen's length and the way he goes after the ball. I have Jada's shot and her toughness, too," Jocelyn said. "I absolutely learned from all of them."
Jocelyn, who came off the bench for Central as a freshman and started as a sophomore, played on the West Virginia Thunder's 16-and-younger Under Armour Association national championship team last summer.
She has scholarship offers from Bowling Green, Northern Kentucky, Oakland, Western Kentucky and Western Michigan and is drawing interest from Butler and North Carolina among others.
"(Tate's) game has gone to the next level," guard Nicole Stephens said. "She can get to the rim. She is working on her jump shot and it's improving. She can take anyone off the dribble. She can post up and she can make great reads when she has the ball."
Boys basketball team rounding into form
The boys basketball team's performances last week managed to catch coach Eric Krueger by surprise, given that the Tigers hadn't had a game since Nov. 30 and were missing two players in forward Zakai Alexander and guard/forward Sonny Styles.
Junior forward Garner Wallace had a standout performance in his season debut Dec. 10, recording 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a 90-44 win at Groveport. Wallace, who was four days removed from helping the football team to the Division I state championship, scored 19 points in the first half as Central built a 48-18 lead.
Tahleik Walker added 15 points, seven rebounds, six steals, two assists and two blocks.
"Garner is a special kid," Krueger said. "It's crazy to come back and play the whole first half in his first game and do that. He is a phenomenal athlete, a special kid. We'll continue to get him caught up."
Central was 3-1 overall and 1-0 in the OCC-Ohio before playing Pickerington North on Dec. 17.
Connor Maciag had 15 points and Walker scored 11 in a 63-30 league win at Lancaster on Dec. 13, and Walker's game-high 17 points the next day led the Tigers in a 72-44 rout of Akron Buchtel in the Ohio Scholastic Play by Play Classic at Nationwide Arena. Wallace added 16 points, five rebounds and two steals and was named the game's MVP.
Alexander started a season-opening 54-53 loss to Toledo St. Francis on Nov. 30 in the All-Ohio High School Hoop Showcase at North but is out with a knee injury. Styles, who also is a football player, is not expected to join the team until January.
Senior Demeatric Crenshaw, who was the football team's starting quarterback each of the past three seasons, came out for the Tigers this season and scored two points in his debut against Groveport.
"We have a lot going on," Krueger said. "The football guys have some catching up to do, but one thing that translates no matter who is out there is defense. We've always preached defense, getting stops, rebounding and getting out and going."
Eberhardt leads swimmers at Ned Reeb
Brett Eberhardt of the boys swimming and diving team finished ninth in the 50-yard freestyle (22.32 seconds) and 15th in the 100 free (49.85) to lead Central to 32 points and a tie for 22nd place with Minster in the 35-team Ned Reeb Memorial Invitational held Dec. 13 and 14 at Ohio State.
Eberhardt also was on the 16th-place 400 free relay (3:43.4) and 20th-place 200 medley relay (1:51.87) with Sam Bechert, Braeden Lehrman and Broderick Thompson.
Below are the coming schedules for the Central boys basketball, girls basketball, bowling and swimming & diving teams:
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
Dec. 21 -- Springfield in Capital City Coaches for a Cure at Capital
*Dec. 20 -- Home vs. Reynoldsburg
*Dec. 19 -- Gahanna at HP Lanes
SWIMMING & DIVING
Dec. 21 -- Northwest Classic at Bowling Green