As any basketball coach will tell you, hustle is one of the most valuable attributes an athlete can have. You can have the most talented players on your roster, but if they’re not outworking the opponent, it’s easy to let a game slip away. The men’s and women’s basketball teams are lucky enough to have two key players who bring the hustle night in and night out on their rosters.
Junior guard Paula Zerante has the competitive drive it takes to earn the status of a “hustle player.” Averaging eight points, two steals, four rebounds, and two assists a game, Zerante is involved in the game in any aspect she can be.
“Everyone on the team has a specific role they need to play, like a scorer or rebounder, but most of the time my biggest impact on the games come from the little things,” Zerante said. “Anything that helps us win the game is what I am focused on.”
Zerante also leads the team in steals with 53 on the season, proving the efficiency of her defensive hustle. Racking up 111 total rebounds on the season as a 5-foot-7-inch tall guard isn’t an easy feat, but Zerante’s competitive drive gives her extra motivation.
Game day is not the only time Zerante brings that competitiveness to the table. “Our practices are mainly made up of scrimmages and coach [Michelle Roof] always preaches to us if you don’t keep up the intensity in practice, it won’t translate over into a game,” said Zerante.
“She has never put a ton of pressure on me, but knows she can put me in the game and rely on me in key situations.”
On the men’s side of the spectrum, junior guard Jagger Anderson plays with that same go-getter mentality. “I just feel like it’s my job to do the little things on the court as much as possible,” said Anderson. “The more little things you do leads to more wins.”
Ranked No. 11 in the country on d3hoops.com going into the CCIW tournament, Anderson has helped the team to a regular season record of 19-6. He averaged an impressive 9.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 3.8 assists per game, but focused a lot of his game on the defensive side of the ball this season.
“The defense always starts with me because how I am playing the ball always affects the four others,” Anderson said. “Everyone feeds off of my intensity and effort.”
When asked about Anderson’s play, men’s head coach Todd Raridon praised Anderson’s hard work on the court. “The best word to describe it is that his play is infectious,” Coach Raridon said. “If he’s attacking and making plays around rim and getting everyone else involved, we have a tendency to be a lot more productive. It’s exactly what you want in a point guard.”
Coach Raridon has had just as much of an impact on Anderson as he has on his teammates. “[He’s] pushing me to have that defensive mindset,” said Anderson.
“Jagger started off as a quiet young man, but as the season progressed, he started to really take control,” Coach Raridon said. “He started to become a lot more vocal and he just has a really high motor with the ball in his hands.”
“I always want to be the first one diving on the court for the loose ball or taking those charges,” Anderson said. Hustle players are always looking to make those little plays that can end up swinging an entire game their way.
Similar to Zerante, Anderson finished the season with the most steals on the team with 22. Forcing those turnovers on the defensive side of the ball is one component of the game where effort alone is going to make plays.
With both players being junior athletes, we can count on them to come back with that same competitive fire for the North Central Cardinals as returning seniors.