There is an epidemic in northeast Indiana.
No, we aren’t talking about ‘rona, but rather the almost-incessant discussion about area prep basketball players making it to “the league.”
It never fails. Every big-time talent that comes through the region, he is immediately labeled as a guy who has the skills to play in the NBA.
And time and again, those aspirations fall short. For a variety of reasons, the expectations thrust upon high-profile basketball players in the Fort Wayne area always wither post-high school. For some, the talent just isn’t there. For others, personal demons or their supporting cast around them pushes bad decisions their way.
This area has reached the apex in football, where guys like Jaylon Smith and Jessie Bates III have become household names in the NFL. Ben Skowronek has established himself as a solid offensive threat in “the league” as well.
But basketball? Not so much. Perhaps it is the fact that the NBA is a worldwide league, bringing players in from across the globe.
Whatever the reason, Fort Wayne just cannot burst through that glass ceiling. A 10-day contract here or there is nice, but who will end the area drought of area players shining at the highest level of pro basketball?
Perhaps, we were just looking on the wrong side of things.
Ayanna Patterson exits her prep career as one of the top players to ever play in this area. A McDonald’s All-American, Indiana Miss Basketball and now, a two-time Outside the Huddle Girls Basketball Player of the Year honoree.
Patterson averaged 25.8 points per game in her senior campaign at Homestead. As a Spartan, she was known just as much for her charisma and smile as she was her basketball ability. Sure, everyone wanted to be in the gym when she threw down a dunk, but the personality of Patterson was even more engaging.
Much like previous Indiana Miss Basketball honoree from Homestead Karissa McLaughlin, Patterson is the complete package. Her skill set at her height is nearly unmatched in the country in the Class of 2022. She is rated the No. 4 player overall and one of just 21 five-star talents in the 2022 HoopGurls Recruiting Rankings.
Patterson also pulled off the rare double double average as a senior, leading Homestead with 11.8 rebounds per game, including 4.3 on the offensive end. She also shot 60 percent from the field and 70 percent from the free throw line. Add in her two blocks, 2.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game and SAC and Sectional titles and you can immediately see why she was always the Miss Basketball frontrunner.
“[Amazing] to see it all come full circle, my high school career and all of the hard work I put in throughout the four years and the battles we went through as a team,” Patterson told Outside the Huddle in March after winning Indiana’s Miss Basketball.
Patterson’s game is sound, with her collegiate career ahead of her at UConn sure evidence of that. She has the support system around her, and the drive and personality to stay on task and not falter to outside influences like many before her from this area.
So, why not Ayanna? As fans of basketball in this region have seen others with high goals fall short, Patterson transcends what it means to reach the top.
As we waited for a familiar face from home to be a constant in the NBA, we ignored the alternative – a woman from Fort Wayne becoming a headliner in the WNBA.
The goals are high, but achievable for Patterson.
We can’t wait to watch the next step in her journey.
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