Caitlin Sudduth evolves into leader at Tinley Park

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To look at the numbers — 15.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals per game — Tinley Park senior Caitlin Sudduth would appear to be a natural.

To see her on the court doesn’t change the notion.

She can shoot, she can slash, she can find an open teammate with a pass, and if that teammate happens to miss, she can find the rebound.

But there was a time when Sudduth quite naturally would have been anything else but a basketball player.

Thank goodness for boredom and curiosity.

“I grew up as a dancer, cheerleader and a soccer player,” the 5-foot-6 guard said. “I wasn’t even thinking about basketball until the summer going into sixth grade.”

One of her uncles, Jermaine Tyler, was the catalyst.

“It’s kind of weird … we’re only two weeks apart (age-wise),” Sudduth said with a smile. “We grew up together, and he would always be outside in the summer playing basketball. I would sit on the car and watch him and his friends play.

“One day I was bored and said, ‘Hey, can I play?’ And we started playing. Ever since then I’ve wanted to play basketball. He taught me all of the rules, and I took it from there.”

She took it a long way, to be sure.

Sudduth has been a varsity player at Tinley Park since her sophomore year. For two seasons she and Diamond Beatty were a 1-2 scoring punch. In 2012-13, Tinley Park was 21-9, its best season since 1988-89.

“We met when I came in my freshman year, but we didn’t start getting close until my sophomore year on the varsity,” Sudduth said of herself and Beatty. “Then we just clicked.

“On the court we were good friends, but we also became closer outside of school. She’d come to my house and we’d hang out, go places together. And then on the court we jelled really well. She had the shot and I could dribble and drive. It was just a good match.”

Beatty graduated and is at Tennessee State. Sudduth has taken over as the quarterback of a Titans team that’s in a partial rebuild, but still competitive.

“Her IQ on the basketball court is one of the best I’ve ever been around,” Tinley Park coach Jason Becker said. “She keeps getting the team involved, and it gives her a lot of opportunities to drive and shoot, drive and kick.

“I love coaching her. I love teaching her the game,” Becker said. “She’s the leader. She’s the one who is going to take us to where we want to get. We want to win a regional championship. I think it can be accomplished if she leads the way.”

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