Seeing Shayla Crook and Amy Fuller sitting together at Subway would not be out of the ordinary. Neither would sitting in front of half the team at the movie theater.
This team is about togetherness. As Crook put it, "That is what wins basketball games."
They both agreed that one of their main goals as seniors is to keep the team on the same page, and not to lose that cohesion as the year wears on.
"Last year we started out really well playing together," Crook said. "But somewhere in there, we hit a wall. We want to stay together the whole year."
Fuller and Crook plan to work side-by-side to bring the team closer, describing their leadership style as one that is motivational and not demanding. However, they do know when to take command. They said that when the team is not paying attention or their coach is becoming frustrated, it is their job to get everyone in gear. However, they are open-minded and see the flip-side.
"You want to give constructive criticism, but you have to be able to take it, too," Crook said. "All players are entitled to their own opinions."
Fuller added that knowing how the players' operate also helps her be a better leader.
"There are some people you just can't yell at, because they'll get really upset," Fuller said. "You have to know how to talk to people."
They both said they feel getting everyone involved is important to being successful. They admit giving younger players a hard time, but insist it is all in good fun.
"We're all family and take care of each other," Crook said. "If we have to get up early (to run) because of someone else's mistakes, we get over it. We have each others' backs."
Crook is a player that also leads by example. She spent her summer training with the football team. She is creeping up on Ball State career records in steals (241) and assists (441) and ranked first in the Mid-American Conference last season in each of those categories. According to head coach Tracy Roller, Crook always looks to pass before shooting, which is why she averaged 6.39 assists per game last season. Despite her unselfish playing style, she still has 75 career 3-pointers on her stat sheet, making her sixth in Ball State history in that category.
"Shayla has always been a good distributor," Roller said. "She is so well-rounded as a player, and has a true point guard's mentality."
The experience of these two seniors, Roller said, provides leadership the team has not been able to have out on the floor the last few years, especially with Crook at the point guard slot, but also with Fuller, who is in her second season with Ball State after transferring from Vincennes.
"(Fuller) coming in this year probably didn't have the season last year she wanted," Roller said. "She has already proved me and my expectations wrong. Her rebounding, scoring and aggressiveness will help us become the championship team we want to be."
Crook and Fuller describe this team as different than any other they have ever played on. They both feel good about the depth of the bench, which is a definite positive with Roller's coaching style. Last season, under Brenda Oldfield, the team played strictly match-up zone. Roller has put in much more rigorous defenses, man-to-man and one-three-one. They also credit their post-play as being better than in past years.
Another main difference is that this team has their eyes on the big prize -- a MAC championship.
According to Crook and Fuller - if they stick together - that goal is definitely within their reach.