Confidence, experience going a long way for Mill Valley junior
Mill Valley junior guard Stanisha Garlington limps into the gym with a ball in her hands and a smile on her face.
"Yo, can you move?" her coach, Betsy Meeks, shouts to her across the floor.
"Barely," Garlington answers and then grins, "But I can play through it."
Garlington has had to "play through it" a lot the past few seasons. The athletic junior guard can't seem to catch a break. She has had a sinus infection, swollen tonsils and a tonsil infection all in this year alone. Last year it was a bout with mono (or "almost mono"), acid reflux in her stomach and an ankle injury. Plus, she is constantly battling her asthma, which limits the amount of time she can play.
"I don't know if it's bad luck but I can't seem to stay healthy. I can't seem to stay unhurt," Garlington said. "Every time I get on a roll, every time I do something good, something always tries to bring me back down."
Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they could use Garlington on the floor. Garlington is the Jaguars' best athlete and defender.
"She is very very talented and really just kind of untapped, I believe, because I think there's a lot more in her," Meeks said. "She brings quickness to us. She's been playing really good defense this year and using her quickness. She's got a quick first step so she's good offensively taking it to the basket."
Garlington is beginning to emerge as the go-to player on offense. As Meeks said, her quick first step makes her the best slasher on the team and she has improved her range from a year ago.
Last season, Garlington was primarily a slasher but as she showed early this season with her improved range from downtown, her perimeter jumper has vastly improved.
"She's tough to guard because she can shoot that three but she can take you to the hole too," Meeks said. "Just a huge jump in improvement from last year to this year."
Garlington attributes her increase in offensive production to the extra work she dedicated to basketball in the off-season as well as a newfound confidence.
Garlington says her freshman season she was beaming with confidence because she was playing well on the junior varsity level and receiving spot minutes with the varsity.
But last year, her first full season on varsity, Garlington's personal problems affected her play and her confidence. She was sick during tryouts and didn't recover until after winter break. She was sick again midseason and then suffered the ankle injury.
Trying to balance school, constantly being sick and basketball started to wear on her. Her grades and her play on the court suffered.
"Last year, I underachieved," Garlington said. "I think I came to practice with the problems I had off the court and it affected me big time because I wasn't playing to my potential."
"Last year she wasn't able to get in a rhythm because she'd play a game and then she'd sit and not feel well for three games and on and on like that," Meeks said. "I think she's finding a rhythm now and finding out what she can do."
This season, despite the medical problems she has had, Garlington has been much more consistent. Meeks calls her "a tough kid" and Garlington says she is trying to play through the pain and tries to not let her teammates realize she is suffering.
Garlington knows the Jags need her on the court. She is a starter for the first time and is beginning to figure out that she has a prominent role.
As one of the most experienced varsity players on a young Jaguars team, Garlington is also being looked to for leadership. She says she knows her teammates look up to her but she is just beginning to gradually realize that she needs to take more of the leadership responsibility and her coach has witnessed the evolution.
"It is difficult as junior to be a leader and it's more difficult for some than others but I think it should be easier for Stanisha because she has the personality to be that leader," Meeks said. "I just think she needs for it to click in her mind that that's OK. She's still transitioning into all of a sudden she's confident and naturally one of the leaders on the floor. I think she'll find that rhythm."
There is no doubt Garlington is no longer lacking in the confidence department. Off the court, she helps lighten the stress load by cracking up her teammates and coaches.
"That's why everybody loves her because you never know what she's going to say," Meeks adds.
On the floor, she no longer shies away from taking the big shot. She says she knows she is one of the elite scorers and she wants the ball in crunch time.
And she isn't just confident in her own abilities but also in her team.
"I have a feeling this year we're going to make it to state and knock somebody out in the first round by surprise."