The next generation

MECCA – When Maplewood Rockets junior Brooke Dawson needs some advice on her basketball skills, she doesn’t have to go far for help.

All she has to do is look across the dinner table.

Dawson’s mother, Tracey Lynn Dawson, knows a few things about basketball from her stellar career at Champion High School and Kent State University. Tracey, a 1990 graduate of Champion, is the school’s career leader in rebounding (1,281). At KSU she became the career leader in rebounding (990) and finished as the second-leading career scorer (2,066 points).

Those are impressive statistics to have to follow 23 years after Tracey last played in high school, but Brooke appears up to the task. Through 14 games she’s averaging 16.8 points and 8.6 rebounds for the Rockets. After Saturday’s win against Lordstown, the Rockets are now 13-3.

At 5-foot-10, Brooke is a little shorter than her 6-0 mother. She possesses some of the same traits that made Tracey the area’s elite player for most of her four seasons as a varsity starter.

“Brooke is one of the girls we rely on to do the scoring for us, especially on the inside,” Rockets coach Mark Yoder said. “She’s proven to have a good outside shot this year. She can step out and be consistent and make those shots.

“She’s very good at controlling the paint on defense. That’s an area where we’re looking for her to control. If the other team has a good post player, we’ll have her (Brooke) cover her. We don’t shoot a high percentage as a team, and there are a lot of offensive rebounds. That’s where she gets a lot of her points.”

It’s rarely easy for a parent that was once a standout to watch a child play sports. They can fall into the trap of expecting the child to have the same traits and success as the parent.

“I sit up there and wonder why she can’t see things,” Tracey said. “I know what an opponent is going to do before she does it. Sometimes I get frustrated. I told her as long as she gives 100 percent, ‘I can’t be mad at you.’ “

There may have been a few times when Tracey and Brooke weren’t happy with each other earlier in Brooke’s career. Tracey helped coach Brooke in fifth and sixth grades and again in eighth grade, and it didn’t always go as planned.

“It’s very difficult,” Tracey said. “I’m always yelling. I had to let it go because we weren’t getting along very well. She said, ‘Mom, I’m not you.’ As she’s gotten older she will look for advice. She’ll listen and try. Sometimes she’ll come to me and say, ‘I don’t know what to do.’ She’s more receptive now than she was when she was younger. That’s maturity.”

The teaching lessons are now an enjoyable mother-daughter experience.

“We joke around with it a lot, but she really does help me,” said Brooke, whose father Len played football at Champion. “She teaches me a lot of her post moves and how to be aggressive in rebounding.”

Yoder can relate to the difficulty of getting through to teenagers. Some are willing to listen. Others think they invented the game.

“They probably just didn’t argue about basketball,” Yoder said. “Every junior high girl thinks she knows more than her parents, just like every junior high boy, until they grow up and have kids. Then they think their parents are the smartest people in the world.”

Yoder, who has relied on Tracey’s expertise as a coaching tool, thinks having someone that’s been there and done that can only help the cause. It can be especially helpful for Brooke.

“Having a parent that knows the little things about the game from having played a lot – like how to be in a help defensive position – will know more than someone that didn’t play,” Yoder said. “I’m not sure Brooke liked it, but it would be advantageous if she listened to her mother when it comes to that.”

Brooke doesn’t have much time remaining to learn more about basketball. Following graduation she plans to attend college and participate in her favorite sport of softball.

“I started pitching when I was really little,” Brooke said. “I was pretty good at it and I stuck with it.”

Tracey, who’s also the mother to 13-year-old son Zachary, has no problem with Brooke’s planned pursuit of softball.

“I was disappointed at first,” Tracy said. “I told her to try travel basketball. ‘You’ll love it.’ It doesn’t matter. I love to watch my kids and will support them in whatever they do. She’s good in softball, but I’m glad she plays basketball.”

Brooke also has one year remaining as a middle blocker on the Rockets volleyball team. She’s truly an athlete for all seasons.

“That’s the type of thing that should always be encouraged in kids,” Yoder said. “Do as many things as you can.”

Brooke is holding up her end of the bargain.