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Rookie duo part of next wave for ’Dogs

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Imani Guy has a lofty goal for her high school basketball career.

“I want to be dunking by my senior year,” Guy said.

At 6-foot-4, Guy isn’t dunking yet, but she can grab the rim. This season, she and fellow freshman Maliah Howard-Bass have given Columbus North a dose of depth in its quest to bring home a state championship.

“I think they’ve helped us a lot,” said senior Tayler Goodall, who has taken the freshmen under her wing. “Maliah is hard nosed. She likes to be physical with other girls, and Imani is doing great inside. She never gives up. It’s been awesome playing with them this year.”

Guy gives the Class 4A No. 3 Bull Dogs an inside presence they haven’t had since Pat McKee took over as coach in 2010. Although she averages only 2.2 points a game, Guy is averaging 3.0 rebounds and has 29 blocked shots, more than twice as many as anyone else on the team.

“Since I’ve been here, the tallest player who played consistently was 5-10, so it’s a whole new dimension,” McKee said. “I think she’s getting better and better by the day and by the week, and we’re thrilled with the progress she’s made.

“She probably needs to improve her strength and improve some of the technical aspects of her game, but she’s working hard every day and has a terrific attitude,” he said. “She’s very coachable, and she listens. Where she was compared to where she is, you can see the real improvement.”

The 5-9 Howard-Bass is averaging 3.9 points and 1.4 rebounds and is shooting

55 percent from the field and a team-best 56 percent from 3-point range.

“She’s very versatile,” McKee said. “She’s played mostly wing, but at times, we have her play the point in certain situations. In other situations, we’ve had her go inside and play the post because she’s fearless inside, she had good elevation and shot form, and she can shoot over people who are taller than her.”

On game nights, Guy and Howard-Bass typically play a quarter or two of junior varsity game and then see 10-12 minutes of varsity action.

“I didn’t think I was going to play much varsity as a freshman,” Guy said. “Varsity is a lot faster and harder. It’s a big jump from eighth grade.”

While Guy was playing at Central Middle School, Howard-Bass was at Southwestern (Hanover) last basketball season. She moved here in the spring with her mother, Brianna, a former Southwestern and Purdue standout who recently married Lamar Bass of Columbus.

“It’s been kind of difficult because there (at Southwestern), the pace of the game is so much slower,” Howard-Bass said. “(At North), there’s so many more people, and it’s a bigger thing. It’s more intense.”

McKee said both Guy and Howard-Bass are legitimate Division I prospects. Both have already received letters from several colleges, including Purdue and Indiana University.

In the present, Guy and Howard-Bass are focused on helping the Bull Dogs win another Conference Indiana title and making a deep tournament run. North is 13-2 going into Tuesday night’s home game with Franklin.

“We’re all pushing each other in practice and helping each other get better to win more games,” Howard-Bass said. “We want to get better day after day.”

“If we keep working hard and playing hard like we are right now, we’re going to have a good ending,” Guy said.

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