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A roundup of news on sporting events, people and places in Southeast Michigan by columnist Jim Evans.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Saluting Sami Stormont's four-year career in Royal Oak

Here's an appropriate location for Sami Stormont, Royal Oak High's two-time all-state selection, and coach Brian Sopata. They are right in front of the school's trophy case. (Daily Tribune photo by David Dalton)
Far too often, some top high school basketball players don’t wear Nikes, they prefer roller skates.
They’ll play at one school for a season or two until another coach beckons. The next thing you know, you see their names in a game program from a totally different school the very next year.
The grass is always greener, I guess.
Well, the school colors at Royal Oak High School are black, royal blue and silver and that color scheme suited senior Sami Stormont just fine.
“I’m so proud to be from Royal Oak. I loved playing in the community where I grew up, and with my friends. I had so much fun,” said Stormont.
Stormont was a two-time all-state selection. Her talent was obvious from the first time she stepped onto the high school court in the summer prior to her freshman season. She averaged 9.7 points per game as a ninth grader, 17.8 as a sophomore, 22.3 as a junior and 21.2 this past season.
She occupies a remarkable 17 of 21 slots on the record board in the gymnasium. Granted, Royal Oak High School has only been in existence for seven years, but even dating back to Kimball and Dondero, few players if any have approached 1,542 career points. I am not sure if there ever was an all-state girls’ basketball player at either Royal Oak Kimball or Royal Oak Dondero, much less a two-time selection.
Stormont will be at Northwood University to play for the Coach Jeff Curtis and the Timberwolves. Her roommate will be Delaney Kenny of Clarkston, another outstanding player. Stormont and Kenny played AAU basketball together.
Stormont not only excelled individually, she also helped raise both the aspirations and expectations of an entire program.  Before she joined the team as a ninth grader, the Royal Oak High  squad worked hard but perpetually finished on the mossy side of .500.
Coach Brian Sopata’s Ravens have not had that neck-craning perspective since.
When Stormont was a freshman, Royal Oak finished 12-10. Her sophomore season, the Ravens were 12-9. As a junior, her first year as a Class A all-state selection, the team went 18-3. This past season, Royal Oak was 17-6.
“I remember when Sami was a ninth grader and she was having some problems with her shot, I told her she could stay after practice if she wanted to work on it,” said Sopata. “She looked at me and said `Are you sure?’”
That is because nobody was sticking around afterwards in those days. Sopata would blow the final whistle at the end of practice and the players would scatter. Not because they did not work hard. It’s just that extra work was not in the players’ mindset just yet. Exterminators were not needed. There were not many gym rats to be found.
These days, there’s no echo in the gymnasium after practice is over. Stormont is not the only one dribbling and shooting a basketball. More than one player is working on her game.
“Sami is not only the best player I’ve ever coached, she is also the smartest player I have ever coached,” said Sopata. “She watches film. She goes to watch games. She is a real student of the game.”
The coach is certainly going to miss her.
“It won’t hit me until the fall,” said Sopata. “Sami will still be around this spring and summer. She’s got her workout regime already from Northwood, and then she’ll be helping me out. It’s going to be a real change next fall, though. We have spent a lot of time together.”
Talent and intelligence are gifts that have to be nurtured. There are plenty of smart people with potential grousing about their sorry lot in life. Stormont has worked hard to get where she is at.
By her own assessment, she was just “all right” when she was in middle school. She was on an AAU team, but played sparingly. She worked hard on her game, and the progress was evident.
“We (he and assistant coach Trisha Fantucci) were tough on Sami at times,” said Sopata. “We knew what we potentially had.”
She scored 42 points in a game against Ferndale last year. She scored in double figures in 65 consecutive games. She never missed a game, despite battling muscle pulls and strains and sickness.
Sami Stormont’s high school career is over. It was partly black and blue, but always black, royal blue and silver. She stuck it out, along with her fellow seniors Gabby Morton, Abby McKee-Boyes, Bella Leone and Morgan Fissell.
They hand the reins over to talented players like Dallas Porter, Ashley Krenzer, Sam Bartelotti and Jessica Ross.
The level of the talent pool has risen. So have the expectations. Sami Stormont had a lot to do with both.


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