Adjusting from junior varsity play to the speed, physicality and skill of varsity is often a difficult task for many players on the hardwood. But for North Lamar sophomore guard Mylee Nottingham, the transition was not as much of a challenge.
In her first year as a varsity Pantherette, Nottingham averaged 11.75 points per game, 7.8 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game and 1.2 steals per game. Her point and rebound averages each led the team. For her efforts, she has been chosen as the Red River Valley All-Area Newcomer of the Year.
Nottingham began playing basketball at a young age through the Little Dribblers program, and she said her affinity for the game was like love at first sight.
“It’s a different type of feeling, I love it so much,” Nottingham said. “I enjoy volleyball and softball, but I think what really sets basketball apart from the rest is working with teammates. You all have to be on the same page and working as a unit. When you aren’t doing that, it can be rough, but when you’re all working well as a team, it’s amazing.”
Nottingham tried to make the varsity squad as a freshman, but it didn’t pan out. The roster was senior-laden, with eight girls in their final year, and so Nottingham spent her freshman year on the junior varsity team.
She wasn’t deterred in the slightest, though. Rather than sulk, she became more determined than ever, working tirelessly at her game over the past year.
“I’ve been going to these basketball camps, just always working on my game,” Nottingham said. “We also went to a summer league, me and some of the other girls who were able to. That was a Greenville tournament, and I think we came in second in it, so we did pretty well and held our own.
“I was determined to make varsity. I pretty much always had a basketball in my hands.”
“I always expected her to eventually pick one sport over the others,” Courtnee Nottingham, Mylee’s mother, said. “I didn’t expect her to drop the other ones this quickly, but I couldn’t be happier for her or prouder of her.”
Her hard work paid off, and Nottingham was moved up to varsity at the start of her sophomore year.
Offensively, Nottingham is as versatile as they come. She’s capable of blowing past defenders and taking the ball to the rim, as well as pulling up for jump shots off the dribble and in catch-and-shoot situations.
“I definitely prefer to drive more, but this year I made an effort to shoot more as well,” she said. “This year, I honestly think my scoring was pretty evenly split between the two, but when I shoot, it’s more in catch-and-shoot situations.”
Defensively, Nottingham is no slouch either, though as with her move to varsity, defense too took work. She pulled down more boards than anyone else on her team, and also helped the team get out in transition with a number of steals.
“To be honest, defense was not my strongest suit at the start of the year,” Nottingham admitted. “I didn’t have fast feet and I wasn’t very good at it. But (head coach Taqoya Monds) had a whole week where we all just did nothing but defense, and that really, really helped. Everything was defense, defense, defense. That was so hard but it got me so much better.”
Nottingham’s season high in scoring came against Idabel, when she tallied 22 pivotal points for the Pantherettes as they beat the Lady Warriors in a nail biter, winning by just two.
However, her fondest memory from the season came against North Lamar’s biggest rivals, the Paris High School Ladycats. In front of the home fans, the Pantherettes downed Paris in dramatic fashion, winning that game by a pair as well.
To Nottingham, though, the best part of the season wasn’t any particular game or individual performance, but rather the relationships formed with her teammates.
“I know it’s kind of a cliche to say, but we’re sisters,” she said. “Our chemistry is unlike anything I’ve ever seen or experienced on a basketball team before and I love them.”
Nottingham also noted that their camaraderie off the court helps them work together as a unit even better on the court.
Though she established herself as a leader on the team, Nottingham isn’t one to rest on her laurels. Already, she’s focused on the ways she can continue to improve and take her game further.
“I need to work on making smarter decisions with the ball, awareness, that sort of thing,” she said. “Like if I’m driving on a fast break and there’s someone coming with me, I can bounce pass it off to them.”
“I also need to get back up to speed on defense again, I think,” she said with a chuckle.
Throughout last season, the squad got some intense practice against an unlikely competition — the boys JV team.
“Playing against the boys really helped us,” Nottingham said. “We definitely held our own and won some, but just playing against them helped us be a lot more physical, and I do think it gave us an edge.”
Nottingham was happy with her first year on varsity, which ended with a playoff berth and first round exit. However, she is already ready for next year, and her giddy excitement when talking about the year to come belies her love for her team.
“I’m so, so ready for next year; we’re going to be so good and I’m so excited,” she said excitedly. “It literally gets my heart going just thinking about it. I think we have what it takes to go far in the playoffs if we play as good as we’re able. I want to go to state.”