Kayla Stockenus has discovered that maintaining a reputation isn't a whole lot different from building one.
The senior guard from Shanksville-Stonycreek High School averaged 31.0 points per game this season and became just the second girls basketball player from Somerset County to score 2,000 career points in a career. All that seems to have done, however, is put a big bull's-eye on her back.
"I definitely think people take it as their own personal challenge to go out there and show me up," Stockenus said. "That makes me work even harder. I have to prove that what I've done isn't a fluke."
Stockenus will continue to try to prove herself and earn respect tonight at Mount Aloysius College when she takes the floor as one of the Central PA all-stars who'll face the Blair County senior stars in the eighth annual Mirror Classic. Tipoff is at 6:30 p.m., with the boys game scheduled for 8.
A newly-minted second-team Class A all-state player, Stockenus (pronounced "stock-EE-nes") scored 40 points four times, including 51 in a game against Turkeyfoot Valley. Although she fired up 637 shots, she still scored more than a point per attempt, finishing with 683 points. She got to the foul line 219 times, making 172 of her attempts at the charity stripe.
"It really hasn't sunk in yet. A lot of people asked me about that," Stockenus said of her phenomenal numbers. "We had a really young team. I had to take a leadership role. I just did what I had to to help the team."
Mirror Classic doubleheader
What: Eighth annual Altoona Mirror Basketball Classic
Who: Blair County vs. Central PA seniors
Where: Mount Aloysius College
Tipoff: 6:30 p.m. for the girls game with the boys game to follow
Tickets: $5 for adults, $3 for children 12 and under. Tickets will be sold at the Mirror until 5 p.m., and doors open at the Mount at 5:30.
Series history: Central PA leads both series - 4-3 (girls) and 5-2 (boys)
Honorary captains: Joe DeAntonio (Central PA girls), Jess Gordon (Blair County girls), Rick Hockenos (Blair County boys), Tim Rigby (Central PA boys)
Title sponsor: Guy Landolfi CPA
Charity: Proceeds benefit the Big John Riley Scholarship Fund
To the eye, Stockenus doesn't look like someone who jumps out like an exceptional athlete or basketball player. She's 5-foot-6, not 6-feet tall.
She's very slim, not muscular or powerful looking. And, when she's on the court, she doesn't show off blazing end to end speed.
But looks can be deceiving.
"She's pretty good on defense. She has really long arms and gets a lot of steals. And she's pretty quick and good at driving [to the basket]," said
Conemaugh Township guard Lyndy Baer, who played AAU ball with Stockenus and will team up with her again tonight. "One moment she can be dribbling, and the next she can just fly right past you because she has such long legs.
She's so lanky and can shoot right over you. It makes it hard to defend her."
Perhaps the quality that Stockenus has best mastered is one that is hard to measure - she has a terrific sense of pace. She changes gears well, like a crafty pitcher throwing a change-up. That makes her appear faster than she is.
"That started when I was younger. I think it just happened when I got tired a little bit and was trying to figure out a way to keep playing," Stockenus said. "I just kind of read defenses really well."
That's a product of a lot of basketball. Stockenus began playing when she was in first grade and took a liking to the spot. When she was in fifth and sixth grade, she was playing on the elementary school boys team - many of those players went on to qualify for the state tournament this year at Shanksville.
If she isn't playing basketball, Stockenus is usually watching some game somewhere. Her favorite team is Oklahoma City and her favorite player Kevin Durant.
Even with the numbers Stockenus was putting up, the Lady Vikings didn't have a great deal of team success, winning just six times. Still, Stockenus seemed to feel fine with the experience.
"My friends were really supportive. They came to our games, even the boys basketball players," Stockenus said.
Stockenus actually is a pretty good all-around athlete. She also plays volleyball and softball at Shanksville and likes to do things outdoors in her free time. She was a good enough volleyball player to be recruited by
Penn State Altoona and Pitt-Johnstown. However, she chose to continue with basketball at St. Vincent, choosing it over West Virginia Wesleyan and Frostburg State - California entered the picture late, as well.
This will be the third postseason all-star game for Stockenus. She led the West girls with 17 points in the District 5 Athletic Directors game, then came back last Saturday to score 10 for the South girls in the AmeriServ game. Her team won both times.
Now she's looking to make it 3-for-3 tonight while continuing to make believers out of people.
"I just hope to go out and play well," Stockenus said. "Those girls are so good."