Big Goals Behind New Look


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Urbana basketball has big goals behind new look

 URBANA — When Arieal Scott moved to Urbana this summer and joined the Tigers’ girls’ basketball team, the play on the court was certainly different that what she was used to.

After all, she didn’t have fellow national top-50 recruit Anaya Peoples by her side like she did at Schlarman Academy, a small private school in Danville.

But the major difference came when she walked the halls of her new, much larger school and saw hoards of students around her.

“It was different coming from a school that only has 100 to a school that has over 1,000,” she said. “I just think the people are different. Everybody knew everybody (at Schlarman), but when I’m in the halls (at Urbana), I meet a new person every day. I think just keeping an open mind and being friendly to everybody, that’s what you have to learn.

“One thing that I’m glad about is I don’t have to wear a uniform.”

The move from Danville to Urbana, where her parents both work, preceded Chris Mennig’s hire with the Tigers, Scott said. Still, their relationship as player and coach began a few years after originally intended.

Two years ago, Scott and Peoples intended on joining Mennig and top-10 2016 recruit Tori McCoy at St. Thomas More. Instead, Mennig wasn’t retained at STM after the Sabers won a Class 2A state title in 2014, and Scott and Peoples stayed at Schlarman, where they won a Class 1A sectional title last year.

As she begins her junior year, which officially opened Monday with the first day of practice, Scott will finally play for Mennig. While it won’t be as part of the star-studded lineup she would have played with at STM, the cupboard isn’t bare at Urbana.

All-Area honorable-mention point guard Lauryn Cross and Centennial transfer Jada Grady, a fellow sharpshooter, are ready to lead the Tigers alongside Scott.

Mennig doesn’t want to put too much on one player’s shoulders, even if that player has more than 20 scholarship offers.

“(Scott’s) bigger role, her bigger hurdle, not just for her, but for Lauryn and for Jada, they’ve been on teams where they’ve been asked to put a lot on their shoulders and go create something,” Mennig said. “What I’m excited for (is) them to learn is that success comes with selflessness.”

Scott, whose scholarship offers surged over a strong summer, said she’ll cut her list down soon and then decide on a school in May.

But it isn’t her accolades that have endeared the 5-foot-9 guard — who averaged 19.1 points last season made 67 three-pointers before winning the 1A three-point shooting competition at the state tournament — to her teammates.

It’s her personality, as well as her silky shot she can sink from all over the floor.

“I talked to Anaya Peoples, and she told me (Scott) is an amazing person, and I got to know her, and she turned out to be an amazing person,” Cross said. “Like really, honestly the best person. I knew she was a great shooter, and that’s what I needed. Getting it to her and knowing she can knock down a shot, that’s easy.”

Mennig isn’t promising a state championship this year. The Tigers, after all, finished 8-18 last season and lost All-Area second-team selection Kiara Moses.

But with Scott leading the way, along with players like Grady and Cross, Mennig does expect marked improvement.

“I’ve said it multiple times, I can’t wave a magic wand and put us in Redbird Arena (where the state tournament is held),” Mennig said. “That was a very special process and growth over a long period of time of creating a culture of excellence (at STM), honestly. But right now, there is a passion to learn. As long as that happens every day, we’ll be fine, and everything that should happen will all take care of itself in due time.”

“Republished with permission of The News-Gazette 2016. Permission does not imply endorsement”

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