On Tuesday night, Sydney Smallbone was back at her old stomping grounds---of course---these are different stomping grounds than the ones she's used to. The 2007 St. Joe Grad never played in the new Alumni Gym.
"This place is awesome," Smallbone explained with a big smile. "I Wish we got to play in this place but playing in the old St. Joe gym wasn't too bad either--it had a good Indiana feel."
Smallbone was recognized before the game and then she did her hardest to beat the Indians. Smallbone wasn't there as a guest--she was there as the opposing head coach. The 24-year-old is the varsity head girls basketball coach at Lakeshore high school. Her 3rd career game as a coach, coming against her alma mater.
"Oh I'm excited," Smallbone said about 20 minutes before tipoff. "Just to be around the St. Joe family and the St. Joe community is a big thing. I loved going to St. Joe high school. I couldn't have gone to a better high school in the entire country. Blessed to be an Indian for life and for one game, I will root against us."
Smallbone played on the 2005 St. Joe team that won a state championship. In 2007--she was runner up for Miss Basketball. She then played and studied under the legendary Pat Summitt at Tennessee. Smallbone's always been known for a firery attitude on the court. That hasn't changed on the sideline as a coach.
"They got five points in 57 seconds," Smallbone yelled in a huddle with her players after calling a timeout. "I'm challenging you."
Smallbone's passion doesn't surprise Sydney's High School teammate and former Irish point guard Melissa Lechlitner.
"I noticed she hasn't lost one ounce of intensity as a player," Lechlitner said with a laugh. "She is definitely carrying that over into the coaching world, which I love."
Smallbone is just 24. So she's only about six years older than some of her players but Sydney says that's proving to be an advantage so far.
"I find it easier," Smallbone says of the lack of age difference. "I feel like I can relate to them a little bit more since It wasn't too long ago that I was playing high school basketball myself. Everything they are going through I pretty much know and can remember so I think that helps me and I use that to my advantage when I try to teach them."
Smallbone has made hear mark in the St. Joe record books. On Tuesday the Indians made their mark on Smallbone's record book. St. Joe came away with the win--meaning Smallbone's first career loss as a coach will go down as happening against her alma mater.