Lee has taken over the scoring burden for Eagles


Published: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Late in a close game with his team needing a score at home Friday night against crosstown rival Gainesville High, Oak Hall girls basketball coach Erik Ringdahl didn't even flinch.
Down 42-40 with just under a minute to play, the Eagles put the ball in the hands of senior point guard Courtney Lee, who drove through two Hurricane defenders before seemingly being fouled on a layup attempt.
However, with the Oak Hall bench celebrating, the officials called a hotly disputed charging foul, and instead of going to the foul line to potentially tie the game, Lee saw Gainesville survive in a 46-40 Hurricanes win that dropped Oak Hall to 10-4 on the year.
But while Lee's 21 points and seven assists were not enough this time, Ringdahl said the game was indicative of how much Lee has grown as a player in six seasons at Oak Hall.
"As a coach, you love to have players like Courtney. She's on of the most coachable players I've ever been around," he said. "This is her sixth year with the team, and she's never stopped trying to develop her game and find new ways to win."
In her fifth year as the Eagles' starting point guard, Lee has found herself in a new position as the team's unquestioned offensive leader. After the graduation of Kittery Neale, the team's all-time scoring leader and last year's Class 2A player of the year, Ringdahl turned to Lee, who had averaged just under 12 points to go with nine assists per game last season, to take on a bigger role in the scoring.
"She's really had to take a different approach now with Kittery gone. Whereas before she was in a number 2 role - actually she's been in that role since ninth grade - now more of the scoring is falling on her shoulders," Ringdahl said. "It's been a transition she's handled remarkably well. Her scoring is up by four points per game over last season, and she's gaining confidence taking big shots."
This year, Lee has raised her average to 16 points a game in leading Oak Hall to a hot start that she thinks hasn't even included her team's best basketball.
"We haven't really played up to our potential yet. Some of the players are still getting used to playing with each other, and as the season progresses I feel like we just keep getting better," she said. "Obviously Kittery was a lot of our scoring and an important player to this team, but I wouldn't really say we depended on her to the point that she was impossible to replace. We're doing fine without her because I've made adjustments and the rest of the team has too."
In addition to putting up more points, Lee said those adjustments has included being a more recognizable team leader on a squad that includes several eighth-graders and just four seniors.
"I have had to take a much stronger leadership role, which has been difficult for me because I'm not really as loud and vocal as I need to be. I would say I lead more by example. All I can do is my best and count on my teammates to do the same," Lee said.
"I was never really asked to dish the ball out more, that's just what I did in past years because we had Kittery here and it was what I was more comfortable with. Now, I'm being asked to be a little more selfish than before and take some more shots."
Ringdahl, in his 14th season as the Oak Hall coach, said the transition into a stronger leadership role wasn't natural for his star guard, but one her talent and selflessness allowed her to make.
"Courtney is a very quiet person, and we've tried to work on that for a few years, to get her to be more vocal. But that's just not the kind of leader she is. She leads by example and hard work," he said. "By eighth grade she was our starting point guard, and we went to the state final four with her splitting the point guard responsibilities with a senior. As a person, she is reliable, mature and responsible. She even babysits my children. As a player, she's the best point guard in the area. We couldn't ask for a better combination."

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