Don’t pass on opportunity to see Patberg

Back in my early days of covering high school basketball, I made a trip to Salesian High School, a small Catholic school in San Pablo, Calif.

Salesian was hosting St. Joseph of Alameda in a league contest, and everyone had that game marked on the calendar. St. Joseph had a senior who was supposedly all-world.

I wanted to check it out.

St. Joseph took control early and hammered the home school, but it really was difficult to tell what all the fuss was about. I mean, St. Joseph’s star player, a guard, was better than everyone on the court, but a future NBA player?

He didn’t look that much different than the other kids. I mean, what is so special about 11 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals?

So why was everyone talking about this Jason Kidd guy?

I eventually found out.

That experience helped to shape my opinion that you have to watch basketball players over a period of time to truly appreciate what they can do.

It’s not quite the same in other sports. I covered one of Marshawn Lynch’s games as a running back at Oakland Tech High School, and it was apparent in 10 minutes that the kid was destined for bigger and better things.

Lynch was stronger, faster and bigger than everyone else.

If you had the opportunity to see Columbus East play football during its just-completed season, the same could be said of tailback Markell Jones. You don’t have to be a major college scout to realize that Jones belongs at a higher level of play.

He has “in-your-face” talent.

Basketball, though, is a different animal. A future major college star might make just half his or her shots from the perimeter while the slow, athletically challenged, future beer distributorship owner might light it up with eight 3-pointers.

A rebound by Joe Lumberer doesn’t look that different than one pulled down by a McDonald’s All-American.

You have to give it time.

That especially is true this high school basketball season. Our area has another spectacular athlete in Columbus North senior basketball player Ali Patberg. Am I being too loose with my adjectives?

Consider that Patberg was being recruited by all the nation’s top powers, as a freshman. She chose Notre Dame as a sophomore.

If you are familiar with women’s college basketball, you know that the Irish stand at the very top of the sport, with Connecticut being the only program a clear notch above.

We are blessed to have one of the nation’s top talents performing right here a couple of times a week over the coming months. Don’t believe me? Check it out for yourself.

But try to attend several Bull Dogs’ games. It is going to take some time to appreciate all the things that Patberg can do.

If you attend today’s 7:30 p.m. game as North hosts Rushville, you might see the version of Patberg, North’s all-time leading scorer with 1,356 points, who scored 44 in North’s opener against Martinsville or 37 in the second game against Franklin Central.

You might see the girl who can dominate a game with her defense or who can play any position from point guard

to center.

Or it might be a night where Patberg sets up her teammates for easy baskets with her terrific passing ability.

Patberg might be scoring all her points on layups, as opposed to knocking down 3-pointers. Those inside baskets don’t carry the same “wow” effect.

But did you notice that she earned that layup by sealing off her opponent, before coming down with the offensive rebound?

College scouts do. The rest of us, it takes time.

So check out tonight’s game, or Saturday’s blockbuster where the No. 3-ranked Bull Dogs host No. 2 Lawrence North in a 2:30 p.m. game.

Whether you realize it or not, you might just be seeing the next Jason Kidd.

Jay Heater is The Republic sports editor. He can be reached at jheater@therepublic.com or 379-5632.