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Deerfield's Haley Greer (left) shoots as she is being guarded by Glenbrook North's Rachel Dress during their girls basketball game at Deerfield. | Michael Schmidt~Sun-Times Media
High school freshmen aren’t always immediate contributors as athletes at the varsity level.
That doesn’t apply to Haley Greer and Margot Sylvan.
Both are ninth-graders at Deerfield, and both also are starters on the girls basketball team: Greer at point guard, and Sylvan at shooting guard.
Along with a core veteran group, including seniors Sarah Ginn, Jessica Bess, Elizabeth Pavalon and junior Kate Hoffman, Greer and Sylvan have keyed a resurgent Warriors team, which won its first two conference games.
“They’re basketball players,” Deerfield coach Mike Muldrow said. “They are a big part of learning our system.”
That involves more set plays, requiring a point guard who’s both instinctive and decisive. In steps Greer, a 5-foot-7 Massachusetts native who comes from a basketball family. Her mother, Lesley, played basketball at Colby College. Her father, Andy, played high school ball. Greer’s older brother, Zach, is a junior on the varsity boys team, and younger sister Blake plays the game as well.
A starter from the first game on, Greer has fused her family influence with natural ability. Late in the first half of the Warriors’ 36-29 win over Glenbrook North on Friday, she rebounded a Spartans miss, and dribbled the length of the court while out-running three defenders. Once in the paint, she faked a pass to Sylvan, then finished off the glass while getting fouled. She made the free throw for a three-point play, giving Deerfield a 22-10 lead.
It was the type of play freshmen don’t always make.
“I’m working on figuring out when I should shoot,” said Greer, who finished the game with a team-high 12 points. “When is it a good shot, an open shot, and am I helping or hurting the team?”
File that game sequence in the ‘helping’ category.
What makes this season so unusual for Deerfield is that Greer has a running mate who’s equally inexperienced yet impactful.
Sylvan (5-4) also has been a starter from the first game on. She first met Greer at Caruso Middle School, and they played in the Deerfield basketball feeder program. The yin to Greer’s yang, Sylvan is a fearless shooting guard — at one point Friday she missed six straight shots, but kept on firing away — possessing quick feet and a defensive-minded toughness.
“I think defense is really important to pick everyone up,” Sylvan said. “We are good at defense and sometimes don’t show it in games.”
It was Sylvan who keyed a 10-4 Deerfield run in the third quarter on Friday. Consecutive backcourt steals led to easy layups, ending any chance Glenbrook North had of reversing the score.
Those were game-changing plays expected from two-year starters. But Ginn, Hoffman, Pavalon and Bess understand just how good these freshmen are, and have emboldened them to play wiser than their years.
“Margot and Haley bring a lot to our team,” Bess said. “We help them make good decisions and they are learning, just like we are still learning.”
Learning — and winning. After a sluggish 2-4 start which, included a 31-point loss to Zion-Benton in late November, Deerfield now is a contender in the CSL North, with two first-year guards leading the way. ~.