It was a nervous habit that coach Ty Thomas used to notice during a timeout.
He saw his La Quinta High School senior Karen Orozco nervously shaking her leg, quickly bouncing it up and down off the ball of her foot. It would happen mostly during timeouts, but more often than not, you could count on it coming at crucial times.
Although few others noticed, it caught the eye of Thomas and he’d joke with the four-year point guard about it. But, no more. This year it’s disappeared.
“She’s gone from being the freshman point guard on varsity, and being nervous about what people thought and taking control, to being vocal, under control and very confident,” said Thomas, of the Desert Valley League’s leading scorer. “I teased her because when she was younger, in timeouts at crucial times, her leg would constantly be moving because of nerves.”
Orozco said some of her friends pointed it out in her freshman year.
“I’d lean forward, my knee would shake, but I didn’t realize it,” she said. “It was always my left. If it happens now, I don’t notice, but I’m not nervous. I’m more confident now.”
Now, it’s opponents who get nervous when they have to take on Orozco.
She’s become a multi-threat, ranked among the top three in the DVL in six statistical categories. She’s averaging 19 points per game with six rebounds and three steals.
Her season-high came in the first game of the year against Temescal Canyon (28 points), but since DVL began, she’s dropped in 27 against Palm Desert (in the MaxPreps Tournament) and another 25 vs. Palm Springs.
Against the Aztecs and the Indians, she made a combined 11 3-pointers. She pumped in six again, just last week against Cathedral City.
“You have to be a pretty good player to lead in that many categories,” said Thomas whose team stands at 14-8 overall, 7-1 in DVL and hosts Palm Springs on Thursday. “I can put her anywhere. The thing that makes her so effective is that she’s not one dimensional on the floor.
“I always told her that it’s OK to be nervous, but as a leader she’s got to keep it inside and she’s matured to that level.”
Orozco admitted she was “lucky” to make varsity as a freshman, but while she worked her way into a starting role as a sophomore, her confidence followed.
“In my junior year, I realized this was my team,” she said. “I was more comfortable and became an actual scorer.”
Orozco has always been a solid player. Since joining the varsity as a freshman where she contributed five points a game, she finished both her sophomore and junior seasons averaging 12 points a game. Last year that included a share of the DVL title and first-team honors on the all-DVL team.
“Sometimes now I get to sit back and watch her get that extra bounce in her step and play,” said Thomas. “She does it within the continuity of the game and sometimes I don’t realize how well she played.”