So you ask Miranda Drummond, twice a Class C state tournament standout over a three-season stretch, if she can identify a notable weakness in her game.
“Ball handling,” is her curious response.
Conversation shifts to her physical well-being, and any injuries or ailments incurred through a season of defenders’ bumps and bangs, hip-checks, double-teams and forearms-to-spine resistance.
“I’m clumsy, so I’m sure there’s something,” she said.
Again … Huh?
Can’t help but wonder: Has this gal ever clicked “Play” on video of herself in uniform? Go ahead and mention ball-handling shortcomings or hint at “clumsy” in the presence of Harpursville opponents and watch the brows rise in surprise.
Drummond, a 5-foot-11 junior and two-time Midstate Athletic Conference MVP, has been selected Elite 10 Player of the Year by members of the Press & Sun-Bulletin, Elmira Star-Gazette and Ithaca Journal sports staffs.
She plays the game with a sense of grace, elegance in motion that sets her apart from the rest, particularly with possession of the basketball.
Watch her snare a defensive rebound, start the break with one elongated stride to exit traffic — head-up, eyes surveying sideline-to-sideline –and ease lithely into the open floor.
Just across the mid-court stripe defenders quickly converge. And so, why not employ a cute little cross-over and re-direct? Up ahead, a single defender awaits in the lane. The choice is to eschew the bounce-feed assist in favor of another cross-over into a lefty finish.
Then repeat a possession later.
Or instead, out of a half-court set, hand off the ball, use an arcing path to the baseline and back to get lost in the wash for a bit, emerge near the top of the arc to receive, catch, rise, launch and tickle twine.
One precious photo captured an example of the latter in the state semifinal against top-ranked Alexander Hamilton of Westchester County. Over a pair of defenders, she elevated into a jump shot displaying the sound form and quick release that have become staples of her repertoire.
“She’s one of the more smooth players I’ve ever coached. She glides,” Hornets coach Kurt Ehrensbeck said.
Drummond averaged 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and 2.8 steals for a team that began Section 4 tournament play as the sixth seed and strung six victories before falling to Rochester’s Bishop Kearney in the state final at Hudson Valley Community College.
Upon conclusion of that game, she was chosen to the all-tournament team for a second time in three seasons — the first after a 23-point, 21-rebound two-game showing as a freshman.
“I was crying the whole time, I couldn’t stop,” she said of the post-game ceremony. “When pictures were taken I was crying with a fake smile. It was definitely difficult to do. I kind of feel like I don’t deserve it because we lost, at least that was probably what I was thinking at the time.”
Oh, she was deserving. As Bishop Kearney coach Kevan Sheppard Jr. said: “She’s a phenomenal player. She drew the most attention defensively from us. (In the semi), she was a great shooter. She totally dominated the first quarter, most of the first half.”
She rang up 95 points in four Section 4 tournament wins, then 26 in a riveting state quarterfinal against Cooperstown in which her 3-pointer with 37 seconds remaining was the difference. Then came the semifinal against Alexander Hamilton, when her 24-point, 14-rebound outing featured 14 points with four 3-pointers in a fabulous first-quarter outburst.
Drummond is a superior athlete who, after demonstrating high-grade ability in track & field as well as cross country, decided to go all-in on basketball. As a freshman she was MAC champion and third-team all-state in cross country, as well as MAC long jump champ and triple jump runner-up.
But her college education figures to be paid for via basketball, as growing Division I interest suggests. She has been seen by recruiters representing Marist, Canisius, Hartford, Delaware and East Carolina, a list she intends to expand this spring and summer while playing for an elite New Jersey-based AAU program.
Her game has developed from her freshman season, when vast potential was clear through an unpolished skill set and occasional awkwardness. From her coach’s vantage point it was not until a bit into her junior season that she became the player that jumped out to Bishop Kearney’s coach.
Somewhere along the way, her penchant for forcing the issue, picking up offensive fouls and committing traveling violations largely vanished.
“Her game really took off this year when she just simplified things,” Ehrensbeck said. “We talked about how she can’t always get to the rim because everybody’s waiting for her. Especially on fast breaks, just pull up for the eight-foot jumper. She started doing that, not running people over and things started clicking.
“She figured out how to read what people were doing instead of just, this is what I’m going to do.”
However, of her ability in the open court, he added: “The kid can run. She can run forever. I mean, she’s a state-level cross country runner. But when she’s got the ball she’s just very smooth. All of a sudden she’ll change directions on you … “
Off the court, this mid-90s classroom achiever is very much a 17-year-old high school junior. High on her list of “likes” is time spent with friends, movies and music, Mrs. E’s garlic knots, chicken bacon ranch pizza and ice cream coffee.
Asked to name her best game of the season, after a pause and a pump-fake or two, she settled on the romp past Unatego in the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. That day, the Hornets were 24-point winners against an opponent they had lost to twice this winter.
“The other two games against them I’d played poorly, got in foul trouble,” she said. “I guess being at the Arena before, it helped a little bit. … I don’t know. Our shots were falling. Maybe we just got better looks.”
For reasons unknown, she has anguished over video replay of the state final though has yet to view the semi.
Hypothetically, Drummond was asked, how would she guard Harpursville’s No. 32?
“I would watch down low because she likes to drive a lot, and if there’s just a little bit of space to get a shot off, she will, she won’t second-guess it.”
Ehrensbeck’s take on guarding his MVP? “Every time she put the ball on the floor I’d throw a double-team at her and push her to the sideline. That’s all I could think of doing– and have a third person waiting in the paint. And, control tempo, because once she gets running you can’t stop her in the open floor.”
Good luck with that.