Before she throws on her game jersey, Caroline Hearn will spend time sitting in the stands at Forsyth Central on a week-day afternoon, attentively watching the junior varsity team run up and down the floor. She’ll break down every play in her head, notice the smallest details and crack a few grins.
Hearn remembers being on the floor for those earlier games, where the ball seemed a bit slipperier, the lights brighter, the whistles louder and the pressure—much higher.
Hearn, now a junior and the starting point guard for the Lady Bulldogs, has spent her entire life playing basketball. She admits that she’s not the most gifted. Her Dad was a coach, but at the church-league level when she was much younger. She played pickup games in the driveway with her sisters—her sisters never stuck with basketball as long as she has.
Instead, it was the belief from coaches in Hearn’s attitude and toughness that propelled her through each stepping point into her career, and she’s still catching up with the fact she’s come so far.
“I started playing in pre-K,” Hearn said. “My Dad was my coach for a little bit in church league, then I got into rec league and played some travel ball. I was the worst one on the team, actually. I played with a lot of older girls.”
Hearn might have been her toughest critic. She often makes jokes about having “butter fingers” in her first varsity game, which was a surprise from Central’s head basketball coach, Angela Hurt.
“In my freshman year, coach Hurt came up to me before a game and told me I was starting for varsity. I was on the junior varsity team at the time, so it was a complete shock. I was even filling up water bottles for the varsity players when she told me I’d be sitting out of the JV game,” Hearn said.
She doesn’t remember much from the game.
“Oh my gosh, I was everywhere,” Hearn said. “My nerves were high. The ball was going through my hands.”
Hurt liked Hearn’s effort in practices and games, so Hearn was thrown into the fire early in her first season on varsity. It was a unique experience, as she was a freshman point guard trying to lead a group of seniors.
“It was hard, because there were six seniors on the team. It was difficult to be a leader. I still didn’t quite know what I was doing yet,” Hearn said.
Hearn made 20 field goals in her first season, then came back the following year to knock down 44 and score 143 total points. This season the Bulldogs having endured what Hearn has called a “roller coaster” campaign, and they’ve still got plenty of work to do with five games remaining before the region tournament.
Central (8-11, 4-3) ranks second in the Region 7-AAAAA, Div. B standings. Hearn hopes they can stay there and finish the year with an overall winning record.
“We did start out rough and lost a few games we definitely should not have lost,” Hearn said. “They just slipped away from us.”
Hearn is a different player now. She spends time in the weight room and even plays pickup games with taller, faster boys players on purpose so that she can fine-tune her skills.
“I have some old middle school guy friends at West I like to play with. They don’t back down. They’ll pack my shots,” Hearn laughed.
“I just love the game of basketball. I’m not the tallest or the fastest, but it’s something I love doing.”
Hearn hopes to improve her shot before entering her senior campaign, but prefers to focus on the team-aspect of her work.
“Right now we’re really focusing on getting the ball down to the post. Julie (Richards) is our main scorer, and once we feed her things open up,” Hearn said.
Spoken like someone who’s been around the court as a varsity player for a while.
“I feel so much more relaxed now,” Hearn said. “When I get the ball I can slow down, call plays and stuff. I watch the JV games and just remember being there, spazzing everywhere. I’ve calmed down from the experience.”