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Jayla Callock is part of a sophomore-heavy Alliance High School girls basketball team that has made great strides this season.
Callock, a 5-foot-8 guard, leads the Aviators in scoring and has elevated her average as the season progressed, highlighted by a 21-point effort in a 64-52 loss to Eastern Buckeye Conference rival Marlington on Saturday.
The Aultman Alliance Community Hospital Athlete of the Week, Callock's improved offensive outburst has helped the Aviators win six games and recently end a conference losing streak that lasted nearly 12 years.
Callock's improved play occurred while learning a new position. She originally was a post, but Alliance coach Rod Smith moved her to guard to take advantage of her athleticism and the team's strength, an abundance of quickness while lacking in size.
"I felt more comfortable as a post, but Coach Smith told me I'd be a better player if I played guard and the team would benefit," Callock said. "It's been a tough adjustment and I still need to get better with handling the basketball and also need to learn how to dribble with my left hand better, which is funny because I'm a left-handed dominant person, except for basketball."
Smith has been acquainted with Callock for several years. He was her coach when she started playing in the sixth grade and for the majority of her basketball career.
"Coach Smith has been my coach every year, except for my eighth-grade year when he took over the varsity program," Callock said. "He's been a very good coach to me. He's been patient with me as a player and he did a great job teaching me how to shoot the ball. I used to shoot it with two hands, but he showed me the proper technique and form to shoot."
Callock has become a credible outside shooter, especially from long distance.
"The biggest improvement I've shown is my 3-point shooting," she added. "I think the first one I made this year came in a game (a 57-50 loss) against Canton South. I've become more comfortable shooting from 3-point range since that game."
Callock drilled two triples in one recent conference game against Minerva, a contest in which she finished with 14 points and six rebounds, tying sophomore teammates Ella Smith and Mar'Zae Gantz for team scoring honors.
More importantly, her effort helped Alliance record a decisive 63-47 win, one which ended a 160-game conference losing streak that dated back to February 3, 2010, when the Aviators defeated Northwest 40-35 in a then-Northeastern Buckeye Conference game.
"I didn't know how long the losing streak was, but I knew one of Coach Smith's goals when he became head coach was to get a conference win," said Callock. "We played with energy that [Minerva] game and moved the ball well. When it ended, we went back into the locker room and screamed because we finally beat an [EBC] team."
Ella Smith and sophomore sister Payton Smith, two of Rod Smith's three triplets, are Callock's good friends who coaxed her trying out for basketball in the sixth grade.
"They really helped me when I came out for the team, and I think I felt more comfortable having them as teammates back then," Callock said. "I think it helped me [relate] better to Coach Smith."
Alliance has also recorded double-digit wins over Waterloo (58-46), Cleveland St. Martin de Porres (63-25) and Ravenna (76-45). The Aviators also posted close wins over Akron Springfield (58-53) and Canton Central Catholic (46-42). Callock scored a season-high 28 points in the Springfield game and also helped Alliance record its third straight win over Central Catholic.
"We're executing better on the court, but we're also bonding better and we've been more positive and uplifting with one another," Callock said. "We've had a good [team attitude]."
At 5-8, Callock is the tallest Alliance guard. Gantz, junior Mianna Ford and Payton Smith all stand 5-4, while Ella Smith is 5-5. Freshman D'Nyya Hancock, part of the rotation, is 5-6. Their common athletic characteristic is quickness.
"Mar'Zae and Mianna, our point guards, do a good job pushing the ball down the court, and the rest of us can run," Callock added.
Sophomore Kellynne Paalaolo, who stands 5-10, is the starting post and has meshed with the guards. Paalaolo, whose brother is Alliance senior football and basketball player Stephen Gales, is backed up by 5-11 Lanayh Richer, another sophomore.
"We play a lot of guards, but we need post players and both of them are important to our team," Callock said. "Kellynne has done a great job for us and Lanayh has much better and has scored a few points in recent games."
Callock, who also runs the hurdles in track, enjoys athletics, but she also realizes she has an obligation as a student. She has earned As and Bs in the classroom and takes a wide variety of subjects, ranging from regular academic subjects to Art Sculpture and American Sign Language, a course she finds practical and rewarding.
"I was recently in a parking lot and spotted a 6-year-old deaf girl and I [communicated] with her through sign language," Callock said. "I told her I liked her shirt and she smiled after I told her that."
Callock and her teammates hope to make their basketball supporters smile with their play the rest of the season, but she admits the team needs to make one significant improvement.
"We need to be more consistent for four quarters," she said.
Six questions for Jayla Callock
What is your favorite subject?
American Sign Language.
What is your favorite color?
What is the hardest thing about high school?
Managing your time between academics and athletics.
What are your team goals?
Getting more conference wins.
What's the strength of your team?
Our family concept.
What basketball skills do you need to improve the most?
Handling the ball better and learning how to dribble between my legs.
This article originally appeared on The Alliance Review: Jayla Callock of Alliance is the Aultman Alliance Community Hospital Athlete of the Week