Sander’s quiet confidence propels Jeeps to successDecember 24, 2020
By JIMMY LAFAKIS
DUBOIS — In her elementary days, Jazlyn Sander watched in awe as the Northeast Dubois girls basketball team took the floor. When the Jeeps entered the locker room during intermissions, Sander and her friends enjoyed some hoops on their home court. These days, Sander directs the Northeast Dubois offense as a senior point guard. She is a leader and a captain, but she has not forgotten her roots. Young Jeeps fans have helped those wondrous moments become full-circle.
“Before our warmups, we’d be running out,” Sander said. “They would give us all high-fives. It was nice seeing them. I remember being in their shoes — looking up to the older players and wanting to be them. It’s pretty cool seeing them. I was in their shoes.”
Growing up in those basketball-crazed environments helped Sander develop her fond love for the game. As she progressed into middle school, she realized the magnitude of local rivalries. Participating in those contests added more fuel to her competitive flame.
“Everybody goes to the games,” Sander said. “There’s a pretty good crowd at the boys and girls games, especially with the county rivals. Those are always fun. Everybody really gets into it — your friends are on the other team. You’re friends off the court. Then, you’re like, ‘Oh, man. I want to beat you now.’”
By her own admission, Sander did not always see herself in a leadership role. It seems a bit ironic for the soft-spoken senior to display such a strong urge to defeat her friends on the court.
“I’m a pretty competitive person,” Sander said with a laugh and a shrug. “I always have been, with just about everything.”
Sander’s passion has left an indelible impact on Northeast Dubois head coach Andy Chinn. Her growth has set a high standard for the younger Jeeps.
“She’s really found her voice,” Chinn said. “Two, three years ago, I was on her all the time about trying to talk. I tell her all the time, ‘Be confident.’ We believe in her. She has to believe in herself. I think she’s finally doing that. It’s just amazing when you look at her stats and how much she’s improved.”
Her statistics certainly denote improvement. Sander is averaging 9.9 points and 2.7 assists per game, both of which are up from last season. Her effort level also bleeds through the stat sheet, as Sander has averaged two rebounds and 1.7 steals per game.
Those numbers speak to Sander’s talent, but they do not encompass the totality of her goals. The Jeeps’ seven wins this season mark their highest total in three years — a stat that brings a smile to her face. Ultimately, Sander wants to contribute to winning through leading.
“You watch how everybody plays,” she said. “If they play with a bad attitude and get down, the whole team gets down. If you stay positive and keep playing hard, that pushes the whole team to play hard.”
Although this year’s campaign has arrived with unusual circumstances, Sander remains true to herself and her values. Early Tuesday afternoon, the Northeast Dubois junior varsity team battled against North Posey in a double-overtime game. Sander encouraged the younger Jeeps as they mustered their final push to victory, 31-27.
In the varsity contest, Sander’s steady performance helped the Jeeps stave off a second-half Vikings run. Northeast Dubois claimed a 49-39 win, and Sander’s leadership helped the team earn that double-digit triumph.
“We’ve had cancellations,” Chinn said. “We’ve had postponements. We’ve had practices canceled. Our team was shut down for two weeks. It’s a lot for a kid to handle. She’s just strapping up her shoes and is being brave about the whole thing. I think that goes a long way.”
Off the court, Sander has immersed herself in a laundry list of clubs and activities. Her involvement in FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America), Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Spanish Club, Natural Helpers and Student Council has laid the groundwork for her positive attitude and leadership.
“When I see her in the hallways, she just brings a light,” Chinn said. “She’s just got a light around her. She’s always smiling. She’s telling everybody, ‘Hi.’ She’s just really involved with our school.”
The respect between player and coach is mutual, as Sander credits Chinn for helping her find her confidence.
“He’s seen it in me the whole time,” she said. “Finally, I’m starting to believe in myself. He’s believed in me since forever. That’s helped me out a lot. He’s pushed me. He pushes me a lot, and that’s what really helps me out. He encourages me a lot.”
As he watches Sander control the game, Chinn beams with admiration and respect.
“Long story short, I’m really proud of the person she’s turned into,” Chinn said. “She’s really grown up a bunch. It’s been fun to watch it.”
The young girl who loved shooting around has developed into a fearless leader.
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