Casey Armour was waiting.
For the past two seasons, Ellison’s guard spent his time playing complementary roles.
As a sophomore starter, Armour often deferred to upperclassmen teammates like Isaiah Stevenson. Then, last season, he followed as area standout Dajuan Jones inherited the title of team captain.
Now, however, it is Armour’s time to shine, and the senior admits it is an opportunity he feels cannot be squandered. After all, he spent years waiting for this.
“Being a leader has just come naturally to me,” Armour said. “My mom always used to tell me, ‘Don’t be a follower. Be a leader.’
“So, it just seemed like I had to step up once all the seniors left. I decided this was finally my team, and I had to do the best I could do.”
And his tenure as team leader is nearly flawless.
Entering tonight’s contest at Shoemaker, the Eagles are ranked 25th in the Class 6A rankings with only three losses all season, and they sit in a tie with Waco Midway atop the District 8-6A standings.
Much of the success is due to Armour’s impressive performances.
Averaging 23 points through the first seven district games, Armour is Ellison’s leading scorer, and he also tops the team in steals and blocked shots and is second in rebounds.
But the statistics do not make Armour unique, according to Eagles head coach Alberto Jones Jr.
“A lot of times a team’s best player isn’t always its hardest worker,” he said, “but Casey is one of our hardest-working kids.
“That lets our younger guys know its not all about points. It’s about taking a charge or getting a defensive stop or diving on the floor for a loose ball when the team really needs it. He proves it takes a whole lot more than scoring to be a great player.”
While Armour was patiently waiting for his chance, though, he was learning, studying his predecessor’s skills and techniques both on and off the court.
“Every day in practice,” Armour said, “those guys would push me, showing me that I had to play hard, and I realized what it took to be close to their talent.
“Eventually, I caught up.”
The evolution was not easy, requiring countless hours in the gym polishing one aspect of his game after another until developing into a complete player capable of single-handedly altering any opposing coach’s gameplan.
Although Armour always had confidence he would reach such a level of dominance, Jones did not initially realize his potential.
“I thought he was a good player as a freshman,” Jones said, “but I never envisioned him becoming one of the best players I’ve coached in the last 10 years.
“But he will be one of my top players ever by the time it is all said and done, and it’s all through hard work.”
Despite being in the midst of an intense playoff race, the reality is Armour’s high school career is coming to a conclusion with just seven regular-season games remaining on the schedule.
At times, Armour struggles with the thought, but he refuses to look ahead. After all, he spent years waiting for this.
“I think about the end when I see how many home games are left,” Armour said, “but I’m just taking it one game at a time.
“I want to enjoy this.”