THE BLADE/KATIE RAUSCH Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Cha'Ron Sweeney's entire time playing basketball under Lamar Smith's watch dates back just over six years ago when she was the smallest girl on the court, yet the most talented at DeVeaux Elementary School.
Seven years later, not much has changed.
Sweeney, who is 5-foot-3 in sneakers, is still small.
And she is still the best player on the court most nights.
The senior point guard played big all season to help lead Rogers to its best season in school history, posting a 24-4 record and reaching the Division II regional finals.
Sweeney, the lone senior on the roster, led the way by averaging a team-high 15.0 points while averaging 4.0 assists and 2.9 steals. Her efforts have led to her being named the All-Blade girls player of the year.
"She's the best point guard to ever come out of Rogers," Smith said. "You don't see too many players like her come through."
Outside of Sweeney's freshman year at Start, Smith has coached the highly skilled player the last three years of her high school career. She's been a three-year starter for the Rams, who have been one of the most successful teams in the area during that time.
The Rams' recent success, which includes winning the City League championship the last two seasons and reaching the regional finals two out of the last three years, commenced with Sweeney transferring to Rogers and suiting up in a Rams uniform.
"We've changed the program from being a down program to becoming one of the top programs in Ohio," Smith said. "Cha'Ron is a big part of that because she has definitely been a leader. She's helped start the fire by coming over here."
Sweeney, who has scored 1,177 points during her three-year stint at Rogers, played productively, while being quite creative on the floor. She made plenty of eye-catching shots driving to the basket or from behind the 3-point arc. She also tossed plenty of no-look passes for assists that brought Rams fans to their feet.
Yet, she played with winning at the forefront and the driving force behind her passion for the game.
"This year I just wanted to help my teammates win because I'd already got what I wanted," said Sweeney, who will next play at Eastern Michigan University.
Her effort throughout the season showed the senior was on a mission to try and help the Rams play their best. She gave it her all when she laced up her sneakers and stepped on the court.
Despite her size, Sweeney played big for the Rams. Her all-round effort in a heartbreaking 61-53 loss to Clyde in a regional final last Friday displayed Sweeney's skill and will to succeed. She led the Rams with a team-high 17 points while grabbing a team-best nine rebounds. She also dished out seven assists and recorded four steals.
Knocking off Division I state semifinalist Notre Dame Academy 52-44 in a nonleague regular-season meeting on the Eagles’ floor was among the Rams' season-long highlights. Sweeney led the way, scoring a game-high 19 points. She produced 17 of those points after halftime to help the Rams climb back from a 25-18 halftime deficit.
"Cha'Ron is a tremendous player," Notre Dame coach Travis Galloway said. "She's lightning quick. In the game that we played, she led them in that game. When they were a little bit rattled, she decided to take the game over. She made shots and executed down the stretch for them.
"I've watched her play for four years, and she's a tremendous player. She's going to have a great college career at Eastern Michigan."
Smith isn't surprised by what Sweeney has done on the court during her high school career because he was there from the beginning when she first made it clear in grade school that she not only had a desire for the game, but she was willing to do what it took to become the best on the court.
"I knew she was going to be a special player," Smith said. "She was very smart and she was very talented and stood out in elementary school.
"She was fast with the ball and could handle the ball and could shoot very well. I knew she was on her way to something special in high school."
Smith said Sweeney's lack of height isn't a hindrance to her play because she is always working to improve. The likes of Marquette, Toledo, Bowling Green,Temple, and Oklahoma State expressed various levels of interest in Sweeney before she decided on attending EMU after receiving a basketball scholarship offer from the Mid-American Conference school not too far from home.
"She's always been the littlest on the court, but her heart was always the biggest on the court," he said. "She was very fearless."
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade