Poteau Lady Pirate completes busy week of hoops in Columbus

For the most part, most high school basketball players play two to three games a week. Poteau Lady Pirate basketball player Kaitlan Standridge did way more than that this past week.Standridge, who participated in the U.S. International Sports Festival last week in Columbus, Ohio, played in 26 games in five days.“It made you want to dig down deep,” said Standridge, who will be a junior this next season for the Lady Pirates. “There was only eight of us on the team. All the other teams had 10 players, so we were short a couple of players. So, we had a lot of playing time. We had to rely on each other a lot. I was finding myself wearing out more. We were going from 8 o'clock in the morning, and we didn't get home (motel) until about 9 p.m. You pretty much had to go to sleep once you got there (to the motel) or you wouldn't be able to go (the next morning).”However, the positives far outweighed the negatives for Standridge, who made the cut to attend last week's event while participating in the United States Junior National Basketball Team tryouts on May 20 at Lighthouse Sports Complex in Oklahoma City.“It was a lot of ball playing,” Standridge said. “There was a lot of talent up there. We only had one practice, but we really played well together — once we figured each other out. It was nice to be coached by a college coach who was from Atlanta.”Standridge, whose team placed third in the U.S. International Sports Festival, said that last week's competition in Columbus was more intense than she faced in May in Oklahoma City.“We only played three or four games in Oklahoma City in one day,” she said. “I played about six games a day up there (in Columbus).”The Poteau High School junior-to-be believes she further improved by what she went through last week in the Ohio capital city.“The girls (players) helped me become a better player,” Standridge said. “The coach told us a lot of things that we might not see while on the court. I probably got better defensively. I felt like I defended better because your legs get so tired.”Standridge also has her feet in the door for college basketball in two years by being noticed at last week's event.“Most all of them there were college coaches, and they put your name out there,” she said. “It was a great opportunity. It was an honor to get to go. I had a blast.”There were times she knew she was not only representing herself, but her high school teammates, also.“I actually did every once in a while (feel I was presenting the Lady Pirates),” Standridge said. “There wasn't really anyone from around here. I think the closest player from here was from Timberlake (High School, located in Helena which is northwest of Enid).”If she got nothing more from the week of hoops in Columbus, it's made her very ready for her junior season on the hardwood — and possibly help the Lady Pirates improve on their 8-20 record last season and get farther than just an appearance in the Class 4A Area Tournament.“This got me fired up for the upcoming season even more,” Standridge said. “This really opened my eyes about basketball. I'm really pumped for next season. I probably would have been fired up about next season any way, because I'm always ready for basketball. Maybe we can make it farther this year.”Not only did the trip help Strandridge from a basketball standpoint, but a personal one, too. For starters, she made friends with a fellow participant from Montana. Then, there's more.“It was good to have the support I had,” she said. “'I was blessed that my parents (Susan and Jerry) could take me up. They helped open my eyes a little, seeing what things might be like for college. I was just blessed my parents could take me up there.”She got to see some new section of the United States.“It's beautiful country,” Standridge said. “We really didn't have a lot of free time — maybe two hours in between games. We pretty much played games and went to the hotel. Had we had a little more time, we probably would have looked around a lot more. It was really nice up there, and really clean. We went up through Illinois, and came back through Kentucky. It was really amazing.”