By Alex Byington
Kileen Daily Herald
For Desiree Wylie, scoring in basketball is not a singular effort – it's a battle won on two fronts.
Averaging a double-double this season, which means reaching double-digit points and rebounds on a regular basis, the Ellison senior feels it's her personal mission to control the boards on either end of the court.
"It's important for me because I know the majority of the time when I get a double-double, my team wins," Wylie said. "... If I'm grabbing rebounds, then I can score. If I grab the rebounds, then my team has a great opportunity to score and that's my contribution to the team."
At a slim 5-foot-10, there is nothing physically imposing about Wylie. That is until she enters the paint.
That's when the rest of her Lady Eagle teammates realize "Dezzy" is coming out and they better get out of the way.
"They understand that rebounds are my thing. We have a connection like when I'm coming, I'm coming," Wylie laughs. "So watch out."
Showing an uncharacteristic streak of aggression whenever she's under the basket, the usually quiet and funny Wylie transforms into a rebounding machine, even when she's being double- and triple-teamed by opposing defenses.
"I had two people on my legs literally stopping me from getting to the boards the whole game (last week), and I was like, 'Coach, what am I going to do?' and (Sherry McKinnon) was like, 'Just be Dezzy,' and that's when I finally started grabbing boards," she recalled.
But it hasn't always been so easy for her.
More than a year ago, during a pre-district game against Waco University, Wylie was crashing the boards when her world came crashing down around her.While pulling down a rebound, she landed straight-legged and the pressure caused the cartilage in her right knee to crack, forcing the then-junior to miss about three months at the height of the season.
She returned for the Lady Eagles final two games, but it took several more months of rehabilitation to overcome the mental barrier to regain the tenacity that made her a standout rebounder.
"It was hard. I actually came back way faster than my doctor wanted me to," Wylie said. "... When I first came back, I couldn't rebound. I was scared to go in (for a rebound)."
And after a sitdown with McKinnon, who has been like a second-mother since bringing her up to varsity as a freshman along with fellow current senior Alisha Jones, Wylie finally broke through that mental wall keeping her grounded.
This season, Wylie has been flying high, no longer afraid to soar into the lane and pull down rebounds.
"I honestly don't think when I rebound. All I see is the ball ... and when I see three (other) people (positioned in the paint), I (look for) the fastest way I can maneuver through them," she said. "But I don't quit."
Entering her final high school season, Wylie comes in with a chip on her shoulder trying to establish herself as one of the area's top players.
"I just want to prove myself to everybody. I have two seasons to make up for, not just one," Wylie said. "This is not just my last season, this is both my seasons for me because I didn't get my season last year."
So far, her double-double mission is working as the Lady Eagles (13-2) enter District 12-5A play tonight against A&M Consolidated with their best pre-district record since McKinnon took over four years ago.
But while she strives to create a name for herself among the district and region's best players, Wylie sets one goal for herself each game – haul in 20 rebounds.
The last time Wylie reached the elusive 20 mark, she got some unexpected encouragement from McKinnon, who, while affectionate with her players, is very particular what she doles out praise for.
"She doesn't congratulate people a lot, she just expects (us to do well)," Wylie said. "So 20 rebounds for me is like finally my coach is going to come to me and be like, 'Good job.' ... It's just that feeling when you know you played good and she gives you that, 'Good job, I know you can do it again.' So 20 rebounds is my goal."
While the act is not usually simple, especially when she's fending off double- and triple-teams, her reasoning behind reaching the double-double plateau is.
"To me it shows that I'm working hard to get (the rebounds)," Wylie said. "And if I don't work hard, I don't get my double-double."
Contact Alex Byington at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (254) 501-7566.