OTTUMWA — If there’s one thing Avery Roane showed this year on the hardwood, it’s an ability to adapt.
Whatever the situation — whenever she was called upon — Roane was ready to contribute to a successful season for the Ottumwa girls basketball team. At the heart of that desire was the opportunity to join her close friends and teammates as they built on something special that started several years earlier, when several of the Bulldog seniors began playing basketball together.
“It’s different than anything I’ve ever been a part of,” Roane said. “It’s crazy how close we became and how well we did.”
Roane’s ability to contribute in different ways has helped her join her Bulldog teammates in earning a chance to play college basketball at a four-year school. Roane signed her letter of intent to play at Graceland University in Lamoni after finishing a prep basketball career showcasing her versatility in a way her team desperately needed.
Roane started the season as a spot starter and was the Bulldogs’ top threat off the bench. It was Roane’s shooting touch that made the 5-foot-10 senior so beneficial throughout most of the season for first-year head coach Kevin Patterson.
“I knew early on this season she’d be a good option for a mid-range shot,” Patterson said. “She had some games where she hit a big shot late that would help us put away wins.”
Roane found herself being called on to play an even bigger role with the regular season winding down. With just five games to go late in the Bulldogs’ 10 straight win streak, Ottumwa lost one of its established post players in Tara Gott to a season-ending knee injury.
Roane was now asked to take over a full-time starting role and devote her game to something entirely new by playing the post. For Roane, it meant even more — filling in for a very close friend.
“I always kind of liked playing the wing, but once Tara got hurt, I knew I had to rebound to help keep us going,” Roane said. “I knew I had to do this for Tara. We’re really close. It made me push myself harder and play a bigger role.”
“She really developed a more complete game when Tara went down,” Patterson added. “It showed her dedication to get better to help our team.”
Roane responded to the new challenge by garnering her first career double-double, scoring 11 points and pulling in a career-best 13 rebounds as Ottumwa beat Des Moines Hoover to stretch their mid-season winning streak to 11 while closing in on a conference crown. Roane saved her best for last in Ottumwa’s last-minute postseason loss at West Des Moines Valley, holding all-state post presence Haley Faber to just two field goals and seven points along the way.
“I always got really nervous when I started. It was kind of nerve-racking,” Roane said. “My big confidence booster was against Dowling. Holding Faber to just seven points was tough, but I did it.”
Roane’s versatility should serve her well at Graceland, which is coming off their second straight run to the HAAC conference tournament championship game. The Yellow Jackets will carry plenty of momentum into next season after winning six of their final eight games this past year, beating two NAIA national tournament qualifiers to finish 14-13 and produce the program’s first winning season since 2003.
While Roane stepped in and took over a brand-new role late in her senior season, it was her abilities showcased in her early-season role that first drew Graceland’s attention.
“They saw a couple of those games where she hit those mid-range jumpers,” Patterson said. “Most colleges get so many kids that specialize in hitting 3s or playing the post. She fills a role that many teams don’t find in other players. They really enjoyed seeing that.”
Roane sees the Lamoni-based four-year college as a perfect fit for a number of reasons. On the court, Roane is excited to be going to Graceland to play for Rich Hallop’s squad out on the wing.
The Southern Iowa location of the college will also allow Roane to continue playing in front of many familiar faces.
“It’s not too far away from home and it’s halfway between Kansas City and Ottumwa,” Roane said. “My dad works in Kansas City part of the time, so it’s perfect for him.”
“I really hoped someone would see her and give her a chance,” Patterson said of Roane. “(Graceland) has a good read on her. It’s a lot more games I get to go see next year. It’ll be a fun winter for me.”