After two-plus weeks of quarantining in the Putnam Science Academy dorm, Zaakyaa Young took pleasure in the small things as the girls’ basketball team opened practice last Monday.
“It was just a blessing, really, to finally get a chance to see our teammates in person, look them in the eye, and not just have to see them while we’re sitting on our laptops 24/7,” she said. “And then, to get back out on the court and get back into the competitive team spirit, getting to play and workout with my team, experience that team bond again…that’s a blessing, too.”
Young also paid for pizza and wings for her teammates over the weekend in an effort to build some team chemistry.
“I’m not trying to take over and be the alpha here, I’m just trying to get everyone together,” she said. “We’re from different places and it’s OK we’re into different things, but I just want everyone to feel like they’re connected. It’s going to be rough for the next couple months with COVID and restrictions and how we’re going to play. It was worth it. You take time to pull the team together and make sure you’re all together.”
On the court, the two weeks off have shown a bit. Legs are tired, shots are rusty, play is a little sloppy. That’s to be expected, said junior Louella Allana.
“We’ll start to understand what it is we’re getting into and will be able to adjust with the new schedule,” she said. “It will be just amazing seeing everyone’s talent up close and seeing what they bring to the table.
“I also enjoyed creating on court chemistry with most of the players and am looking forward to this season. It has been quite challenging for others who are trying to find a new role on a new team and to keep up with high standards. However, it’ll be great to see that not one player is truly alone in this and that everyone is trying their very best to help the others out.”
Mustangs coach Devin Hill, in his first full season after taking over midway through last year, has liked what he’s seen.
“It certainly won’t the cleanest basketball, but we expect that,” he said. “They haven’t played in two weeks and they haven’t ever played together. But I know we’ve got talent. We’ve got people who can play, so I’m confident we’re heading in the right direction.”
Hill and his new assistant coaches Jasmyne Fogle and Ashley Wilson worked hard this summer to upgrade the overall talent among the two girls’ teams at the school, so much so that rebranding them as two prep-level squads (Prep Black and Prep Red) made a lot of sense. What that looks like in reality this season remains to be seen, as no schedule has yet been set due to the pandemic.
That doesn’t change things for Young, however.
“It’s great being out there because we’re all chasing the same goals,” she said. “We all want to earn scholarships, we want to go to college. We’re students before athletes and that has to be our motto.
“Coming here has been a blessing already. I wasn’t expecting to get my own room here. I’ve never had my own room before. I’m humbled. I’ve never been around a group of girls like this before, never gone away to school. I’m just blessed.”
Stephen Nalbandian
Sports Information Director
Putnam Science Academy


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