Grace Meyer has been a Seymour girls basketball fixture for four years, and the points have added up.
Going into today’s game against at Center Grove, she is three points shy of having 1,000 on her résumé, always an exclusive club on the high school level. She’ll take the milestone on a single shot from 20 feet or a layup and one, three free throws or any combination.
As long as she gets a shot at it, which was in the back of her mind last Saturday when the 7-7 Owls defeated Crawford County behind her season-high 26 points and then faced a week off.
In an ordinary year, this would be nothing to worry about. The game would come around, the ball would come around to Meyer and she would shoot and score.
But the 2020-21 season is not an ordinary season. The COVID-19 pandemic lurks in the background, always a threat to getting a game called off. After all, the Owls had just come off of a two-week quarantine, so it was hardly an unreasonable thought.
“I didn’t want another game canceled,” Meyer said.
So over the last handful of minutes against Crawford County, those watching saw Meyer repeatedly beat the clock to try and hit 29 points for the day and end any suspense. Wouldn’t you know it, for the only time in the game, Meyer went cold.
Meyer was on the court when she heard coach Jason Longmeier ask someone on the bench something akin to “How many does she have?” When informed Meyer was at 997, he kept her in the ballgame and hoped the points would come in the flow.
Also, the Owls bench got into it.
“One of the girls held up a ‘3’ sign on the bench,” Meyer said, to keep her informed of how close she was to 1,000.
Every time Meyer dribbled into the front court, half the players on the sideline climbed to their feet, poised to celebrate the milestone hoop. Although fan attendance has been tightly capped due to coronavirus policy regulations, Longmeier wanted Meyer to reach 1,000 at home in the Lloyd E. Scott Gymnasium.
“Any time you get a four-year kid who has played as much as she has,” he said, it seems to mean more to put up the mark in a home game.
Meyer has been an exemplar for the program, Longmeier said, a three-year starter and a team leader.
“She’s a good student in the classroom, as well,” he said. “She’s a gutty kid who has never missed a practice. What a lot of people don’t see is her toughness. On offensive rebounds, she goes hard. She is going to have 500 rebounds, and she’s only 5-8. That just goes to show you her toughness.”
Meyer laments that height number but doesn’t dispute it, more irritated because those in her immediate family are taller.
“I wish I was taller,” she said. “My whole family is really tall. I lost out.”
Meyer appears taller than 5-foot-8, and she has some heft, some muscle in her build that accounts for that rebounding.
“I like to play physical,” she said.
To the best of her memory, Meyer began playing basketball as a 5-year-old on a kid’s low hoop. She liked the sport from the start, its flow, the camaraderie. Playing AAU ball, Meyer, now 18, hooked up with teams where the girls were two years older.
“I really liked the competitiveness and being on a team,” she said.
That competitiveness shows itself on drives to the basket, the hustle after loose balls and the in-fighting for rebounds. Meyer can display a get-out-of-the-way attitude toward opponents covering her.
For most of her Owls days, Meyer has been either a post player or a wing, but a player stationed fairly close to the basket even as her range increased on the perimeter.
But circumstances changed. The two-time all-Hoosier Hills Conference player took on a new position this season. She became the point guard, a player facing the basket from a distance and starting the offense herself, not waiting for the ball to come to her.
“It’s definitely a big transition,” Meyer said. “I thought, ‘Oh, boy, I definitely need to work on my ball-handling. You feel the pressure on you when you’re the point guard. I’m kind of nervous in games, but I feel like I have it down more.”
Longmeier hesitated to tamper with success, but in Meyer, he saw a player who could adapt, take charge in the new role and fill a hole in the lineup.
“That kind of happened for us this year as necessity,” Longmeier said. “I have more trust in Grace with the ball in her hands. We came back to who gave us the best chance to get into what (offense) we need to get into.”
Meyer’s 16-year-old sophomore brother, Eli, is a 6-3 forward on the boys team. He has got her beat in height already. They have played a lot of one-on-one over time. Grace may be surrendering inches, but she doesn’t give an inch, and she is not prepared to concede the sibling rivalry as Eli gets stronger.
“He might get me in arm wrestling,” she said. “I think I can outshoot him (from the free throw line). He would probably tell you no.”
Meyer as a senior feels like a grown-up on the court compared to Meyer as a freshman.
“I’m definitely more of a threat scoring,” said Meyer, whose career high of 33 points in a game came as a junior last year, “and my defense has come a really, really long way. I’m more of a leader with more communication. When people are down, I try to pick them up. The way I perform on the court is making sure everyone does the right thing.”
Passionate about basketball from kindergarten age, Meyer may be contesting the last basketball games of her career. Although she spoke to some colleges about playing hoops and some coaches contacted her, Meyer committed to Marian University in Indianapolis to play softball.
“I’ve thought of doing both,” Meyer said, but if basketball is scratched, “I will miss it.”
First, though, she’s got to notch those few points for Seymour and lead a team charge into sectional play in early February.
“We can definitely make a run in the sectional,” Meyer said. “We have tons of talent. Everyone on the team is very athletic.”