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Comets in good hands with McLeod

Jody McLeod can only offer a shy smile when informed of the numbers.

The 6-foot senior post for Crater ranks third on school career lists with 747 points and 530 rebounds. She is averaging 14.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game this season, and maintains a 3.7 grade-point average.

The biggest number, however, is the Comets? record when No. 33 steps on the court. Crater's girls basketball team is a mind-numbing 72-10 in games McLeod has played, twice reaching the Class 4A state championship final.

Definitely to be up at the top is nice, says McLeod. I wasn't aware of that.

Barring injury and a marked drop in her averages, McLeod should cap her career at Crater ranked second in scoring and rebounding behind Caryn Ross (990) and Shawnti Moore (705), respectively.

Once again, all McLeod can do is smile and add a giggle. The numbers may not be shy, but the person sure is.

She's a pretty quiet kid, but she can get emotional sometimes, says Crater coach David Heard. Her quiet demeanor is kind of a contrast to the way she plays.

Truth be told, McLeod can be an unstoppable force on the court. Inside the paint, she's downright ruthless. When the ball caroms off the rim, she acts like it's hers and few are able to prove her wrong.

She understands rebounding better than anyone I've coached, says Heard.

McLeod, 18, says she definitely undergoes a personality change once she steps on the court.

You can't be shy on the court or else you won't get anything done, she says.

McLeod developed her on-court demeanor as a freshman playing on Crater's state runner-up squad. She provided a huge lift off the bench in a quarterfinal tilt against Clackamas, pulling down nine of her 11 rebounds in the second half to help lead the Comets.

That game catapulted her to a different level, says Heard.

After an injury-plagued sophomore campaign, McLeod helped lead Crater back to the state championship game as a junior. As one of the main cogs to the Comets? success, McLeod says she and her teammates will be disappointed if they're not on the court for this year's final as well.

At 14-1 overall and 6-0 in Southern Oregon Conference play, the second-ranked Comets have certainly laid the foundation for that finals spot. Still, each year carries different demands in pressure and expectations.

This year, we're not really the underdogs like last year, and that makes a big difference, says McLeod. Everybody has seen us and they all want to beat us.

That's a burden the Comets apparently have become comfortable with shouldering.

We've had a lot of pressure put on us the past few years and it's only made us better in tight games, says McLeod. I think we're ready for it and can deal with it again this year.

The Comets have already proven they are a force to be reckoned with on a national scale, having won the prestigious West Coast Jamboree in Antioch, Calif., and finished second in the Amador Valley Classic in Pleasanton, Calif.

Both tournaments featured some of the finest basketball talent the West Coast has to offer and acted as a springboard to McLeod's college recruitment. With major college coaches in the stands to watch the likes of Crater juniors Amy Denson and Sarah Pool, McLeod muscled into the spotlight with her unflinching work inside.

In the 56-team West Coast Jamboree, McLeod pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds and had 16 points in outplaying highly recruited Mya Chatman, a 6-foot-6 post for J.F. Kennedy of Richmond, Calif. McLeod was also named to the all-tournament team in the Amador Valley Classic.

That hard work turned into inquiries from prestigious schools like UCLA and California. Oregon State has also shown interest, as have a handful of other Division I programs who believe McLeod would be a fine fit for their program.

I was overwhelmed when I heard that, McLeod says of the buzz she created. I guess that's what you get when you go down there and all those big college coaches are there.

That's also what you get when you play alongside such undeniable talents in Denson and Pool, whom McLeod credits for sparking her improvement.

Playing with Amy and Sarah just makes the other players better because they're so phenomenal, she says. It helps when you have players like that on your team.

It also helps to have people like McLeod.

I hope either one of my daughters turns out the way she did, Heard says in praising his occasional baby sitter. She's a top-of-the-line person in all aspects, far and away beyond basketball.

Hearing that synopsis for the first time once again brings a smile to McLeod's face.

I think the four years at Crater have been the most fun I've had, she says. Just to be on a winning team and experience all of this is pretty cool.

As is the Crater senior, on and off the court.

Reach reporter at 776-4488, or e-mail khenry@mailtribune.com