Local basketball star has a chance to be so much more

Memorial Park eighth grader Ayanna Patterson received a basketball scholarship from Indiana University two weeks ago, but she’s also interested in many other things, including writing, reading and drawing. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)

Patterson helped Memorial Park win the Fort Wayne Community Schools Middle School basketball title last year as a seventh grader. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)

Patterson helped Memorial Park win the Fort Wayne Community Schools Middle School basketball title last year as a seventh grader. (By Blake Sebring of The News-Sentinel)

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Ayanna Patterson may end up playing hoops, but she’s much more than that

Column by Blake Sebring

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 05:31 pm

Two weeks ago, Memorial Park eighth grader Ayanna Patterson was playing basketball in a Chicago tournament when something odd happened. She was the youngest player on her team by two years, but that wasn’t unique because she’s always played up. Patterson, whose final middle school season hasn’t even started practice yet, received a scholarship offer from Indiana University. Since then, six other schools have stepped up with offers, though her family has declined to identify them.

Ayanna Patterson and her parents are still studying and deciding on where she’s going to high school. Academics will be the primary factor.

Other than that fact, receiving an athletic scholarship offer really isn’t a surprise. She’s a 6-foot-2 forward who is gifted athletically. Her father is former Fort Wayne Fury player Andre Patterson and her brother is former Concordia Lutheran all-state player Andre Patterson Jr., who played at UCLA. She beat her father one-on-one for the first time this summer.

Every college would absolutely love to have Ayanna Patterson attend their school, and they are starting the recruiting process early because they are all afraid to miss out on her.

But none of that describes how unique Ayanna truly is. She might be better as a track athlete where she competes in the 100-, 200- and 400-meter dashes for the Fort Wayne Express club.

The other thing is she’s not limited to only sports scholarships as she has exceptional grades. She likes reading, writing and drawing, and ask what she wants to consider as a profession and Patterson mentions becoming an entrepreneur, a broadcast producer or a computer graphic designer. She’ll probably try out all three sometime.

She also has a passion for helping others, and is very active in community service, so no one would be shocked if she decided to become a doctor, lawyer, a teacher or something else worthy of serving society.

This all sounds a little ridiculous, maybe even farcical, but it’s all completely true. I’ve known Patterson since she was a second grader, and it was obvious then she was going to be something special because she already was and still is. She has always looked out for the underdog and stood up to bullies, always helping others with a servant’s heart. She has always been more concerned with others than her own needs.

Every coach yearns to have her on their team. Every parent wishes their child was so respectful, confident and empathetic. She’s also completely genuine, friendly and even a little mischievous. In that, she’s a typical teen-ager who loves to laugh.

“She’s pretty special,” said her track coach, Terry Milton who also coaches the Northrop girls. He’s been coaching her since she was 8. “She’s just as special at track as she is at basketball because she has a passion for it. She’s super competitive, even with her soft-spoken personality. She is the total package already, so coachable, very, very polite and she picks up on things so fast. She’s going to be successful wherever she goes because she is self-driven athletically and academically.”

Patterson has been the captain on most teams she’s played on, even as a seventh grader last year playing on the city champion Memorial Park basketball team. Though she was the captain and a star, she let the eighth graders first climb the ladder to cut the nets down. She’s very perceptive and understands her place and her worth in things. Despite her shy, soft-spoken nature, she likes being a captain because…

“It’s the leadership and knowing you can lift people up if you try hard,” she said.

Her favorite part of being part of the basketball team is being around others who have the same passion and drive to achieve their dreams together.

“I’ve been through it personally and then my son, too,” her father said of the college process. “She’ll probably be better than both of us because of her work ethic. I think she handles herself in this process well. She’s pretty level-headed, she’s well-rounded.”

Her parents make sure academics come first, but they really don’t need to push her too much with that. Her greatest dreams, she said, are to travel the world followed by playing in the WNBA. Maybe next year it will be the Olympics or to study or maybe even create something.

She has so many incredible options open to her that Patterson truly can become anything she wants to be, and she has five years to consider more dreams. It’s great to get a scholarship offer this early, but she’ll never be just a basketball player or a track athlete. She’s not even close to exploring all that she can be yet.

It’s going to be even more fun to watch her grow as a person than as an athlete.

This column is the commentary of the writer and does not reflect the views or opinions of The News-Sentinel. Email Blake Sebring at bsebring@news-sentinel.com.

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