The Deerfield girls basketball team entered this season as a young group with two freshmen in its starting lineup and 11 first-year varsity players.
Aided by her previous experiences, junior Emelia Karkazis has become a valuable contributor for the Warriors. She was the team’s sixth man before suffering a concussion on Jan. 18 — she hopes to return in time for the postseason — and has helped the development of some of the team’s other first-year players.
At the beginning of the year, Karkazis was in the group of 11 players without varsity basketball experience. But she said she felt better prepared because of the lessons she learned from playing varsity softball as a sophomore.
“I was really young when I was on varsity for softball, so I think that now I’m older and more mature and I’m able to handle pressure more,” Karkazis said. “Just knowing how I transitioned to varsity as a freshman, I kind of took that and was able to transition to basketball [better].”
After briefly playing on the varsity softball team as a freshman, Karkazis was Deerfield’s full-time first baseman last year. She hit in the No. 4 spot and led the Warriors with a .402 batting average, five triples and 37 RBI.
Accumulating that experience allowed Karkazis to grow more comfortable with the increased pressure of varsity sports. It also allows her to provide underclassmen like freshman guards Margot Sylvan and Haley Greer with advice about how to handle competing against older, more-talented competition.
“Emelia is one of the upperclassmen who helps me and Haley,” Sylvan said. “She talks to us about what we need to do better and gives us the extra backup that we need. She tells us when we’re down, ‘Keep it up.’ ”
Karkazis also provides Deerfield coach Mike Muldrow with a prime example of the work ethic needed to succeed as a varsity athlete.
“She’s an extremely hard worker,” Muldrow said. “She’s not the fastest kid on our team and she often wins our sprints. And that just shows she’s going to work hard all the time; it doesn’t matter the situation. She’s going to buy into what the coaches say, and she knows from experience that that’s putting us in the best position to win. And if that’s sprint fast, or slow the ball down or execute the set, she’s going to do all those things.”