Neff serves as leader for Patriots girls team

Heritage Hills' Avery Neff is a leader and a coach on the floor for the Pats' girls basketball team. Marlena Sloss/The Herald


LINCOLN CITY — Heritage Hills junior guard Avery Neff picked up a lot of basketball skills growing up trying to beat her older sister Greer. She is an adept ball handler, has grown as a perimeter shooter and loves playing the kind of suffocating defense that throws opposing guards off their game. Yet what makes her so effective for the Patriots is how she uses all of those skills to control the dynamic proceedings on the ever-changing landscape that is the court.

“I like being able to control the floor,” she said. “With the ball in your hand a lot, I see the floor pretty well.”

“She’s the floor general,” Patriots coach Kim Brown added. “Avery knows what needs to be happening, and she’s the communicator on the team. She’s the coach on the floor as far as her getting everyone to know what I want done from the sideline.”

Neff has developed an educated eye from her years around basketball, and has developed her sense of balance related to tracking the various things that are happening on the floor. She looks at the type of defense the opposing team is playing, where her teammates are spread out and which matchups the Patriots are trying to exploit on any given possession. She’s keenly aware of the consequences of a bad read and used to feel pressured about making the wrong call. She credits the seniors from prior teams for empowering her with the confidence to play freely and learn from her experience when she began getting starter’s minutes as a freshman

“My freshman year we had seniors like Abby Wahl, Kerragan Mulzer and Kate Kaetzel,” she said. “I looked up to them, and that helped me a lot. But also just being on the floor so much [helped], just playing a lot more.”

Neff has also grown as a leader in other areas besides just her play on the court. She confessed that she used to let her emotions drive her, which, in turn, led to periods of frustration when things weren’t working the way she wanted on the floor. Now she has turned that impulse into a drive to be a calming force when things are going awry and simply takes the ball back to the top of the key so she can reset the team.

“(Coach) Brown always talks about short memory,” Neff said. “If something goes wrong, you’ll get it back, but don’t foul or turn it over trying to get it back. Make smarter decisions on getting it back.”

“When we are in chaos, she has the power to understand what’s going on,” Brown added. “She can pull it out, give them a look and they understand we need to fix this. The other girls look to her to see how things are going, and when the chaos is going on she takes a step back and everyone is like, ‘Okay, we’ve lost it, so let’s get it back together.’”

Neff still has a lot to give and room to grow for the Patriots, but it is clear she has carved out her niche as the team’s dribbling director. She looks forward to gaining a higher level of mastery over the hardwood environment and controlling whatever chaos may arise that would seek to impede success for the Patriots.

“I hope I get better every practice,” she said. “I do what I can to grow. I see myself helping my team by providing the ball to my teammates more.”

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