It has been said that good things often times come in small packages. Such is the case with Southwestern Illinois College point guard Lateesha Deloach.
Standing just a shade over 5-foot-3, Deloach has the ability to step out and hit the 22-foot jump shot and she is cat quick when she needs to beat a defender off the dribble and take the ball to the basket.
But those things aren't what made Deloach one of the premier players in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference during the 2013-14 season. A graduate of Incarnate Word High School in St. Louis, Deloach is simply a leader.
"'T' (Deloach) is our coach on the court,'' Blue Storm coach Mike Juenger said. "Offensively, we've asked her to and she is shooting the ball more this year because last year we had Janelle (Cannon). But she run our offense and on defense she's the one responsible for getting people in the right place. She is like a little general out there.''
And for the second straight year, Deloach will lead SWIC into the NJCAA Division I National Tournament.
Seeded 22nd, SWIC (23-5) will take on 11th-seed Tyler (Texas) College (28-5) in the first round of the 2014 national finals at noon Tuesday in the matchup of perennial national powers at the Bicentennial Center in Salina, Kan.
A starter on the 2013 SWIC team which lost to Chipola (Fla.) College in the opening round of the national finals, Deloach said she thinks her team is ready for the challenge.
"Any team is beatable. If we go out and play the way we have in the last four or five games, we've got a shot to win a game or two," Deloach said. "The key for us is tempo. They (Tyler) shoot a lot of 3's and they like to get up and down the court. We can't get caught up in playing their style. We have to slow it down and play the way that got us here.''
Playing in big games is nothing new to Deloach. Competing for one of the top high school girls basketball programs in the Midwest, Deloach was a key member of the 2011 Class 5A state champions.
But after graduating and instead of going to play at the NCAA Division I level like many of her high s chool teammates, Deloach chose to attend SWIC.
"All things happen for a reason. I feel like God placed me here (SWIC). If I would have gone D-1 right after high school I may not have been ready for it, Deloach said. "My mom always tells me that God gave me this gift to play basketball and to play it here at SWIC. I feel that coming here was the best decision that I could have made.''
Deloach has also adopted a different role this season. For one of the first times since starting to play basketball at the Matthew Dickey Club in St. Louis while in the third grade, Deloach is looking to be more of an offensive threat.
Second on the team in scoring, Deloach is averaging 12.5 points, three rebounds and four assists per game.
"Going from Incarnate Word to SWIC wasn't difficult. Coach (Dan) Rolfes helped me prepare for the college game,'' Deloach said. "I knew coming in this year that I would be asked to score a little more and so I worked on shooting, shooting off the dribble, ball-handling and taking the ball to the basket. I feel like I'm a better player.''
Deloach said there are many reasons for the Blue Storm's success. But none more important then the closeness of the players both on and off the court.
Deloach credits Juenger for making the current SWIC team a family unit.
"I've pushed myself this year more then I ever have before. Pushed myself to be a better person and a better player,'' Deloach said. "Coach (Juenger) has also pushed me. He's tough on us, very tough.
"But that's good because he'll fight for us. I would much rather play for a coach who will go the extra mile for his players and coach Juenger will do that.''
Majoring in mass communications, Deloach is hoping to do something in radio broadcasting she graduates. Where she will go to school next year is still unknown.
"I've talked to a few coaches. But as of right now I have no idea where I'm going next year,'' Deloach said. "I'm going to take some visits in the spring and we'll see what happens."
Contact reporter Dean Criddle at 239-2661 or firstname.lastname@example.org