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Basketball: Smooth transition – Zuniga’s time at point helps Slidell start fast

By Reece Waddell | Published Wednesday, December 27, 2017
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Getting Up the Floor

GETTING UP THE FLOOR – Slidell’s Cate Zuniga started the season at point guard after an injury to Bailey Meyer. She is now a versatile offensive weapon for the Lady Greyhounds. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

During a fall league game two-and-a-half months ago, Slidell’s Bailey Meyer got shoved from behind driving for a layup. When she landed, her knee locked, resulting in a bone bruise on both her tibia and femur.

At first, doctors feared she may have damaged her anterior cruciate ligament, but after a second opinion, it was determined Meyer suffered no structural damage. However, she still faced a lengthy recovery, and was forced to the sideline for the first several games of 2017.

This left the Lady Greyhounds with a dilemma – who would play point guard?

With limited options, Slidell coach Lance Shelton turned to one of his upperclassman – Cate Zuniga. There was just one problem – she was a post and had never played the position before.

“It put a lot of pressure on me,” Zuniga said. “I was scared I was going to mess up or something.”

Tough to Guard

TOUGH TO GUARD – Cate Zuniga eases past a defender. Zuniga is a tough matchup for defenders with her ability to post up in the paint and put the ball on the floor to drive to the basket. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Zuniga, who had almost exclusively played on the block in her first two seasons, was now being asked to bring the ball up the floor and get Slidell into its offense. The position change also meant Zuniga had to rethink the offense and balance when to score and when to get her teammates involved.

But the Lady Greyhounds did not have much of a choice.

“Early in the season, after Bailey got hurt, we had to move her,” Shelton said.

While the switch to point guard forced Zuniga to make several adjustments, it also allowed Shelton to capitalize on her offensive versatility. Along with her ability to rebound, Zuniga is able to step back and knock down 3s, helping the Lady Greyhounds space the floor.

Although the position change was not permanent, Zuniga made Slidell’s offense flow in Meyer’s absence. Now over a month into the season, the Lady Greyhounds are 12-5, beating Midway 47-7 last week with Zuniga scoring a game-high 12 points.

“If they hadn’t moved her to guard, they would have been in trouble,” Meyer said. “Moving her to guard gave them some more height and experience.”

Now that Meyer is healthy, Shelton said the plan is for her to be the primary point guard with Zuniga playing off the ball in the post. Shelton stressed how tough Zuniga is to guard, especially now that she has experience handling the ball and driving to the rim.

It’s something he thinks will only benefit Slidell down the stretch.

“She’s good enough from 3 to be a threat to where you have to cover her,” Shelton said. “She’s pretty agile and can go to the basket relatively easy. You have to find a good defensive player that can stop her.”

Even though she won’t be regularly running the offense anymore, Zuniga believes her time as the de facto floor general helped expand her game. Her experience at point guard also gave Slidell added depth, so if something does happen to Meyer or if she fouls out, Zuniga can step in at a moment’s notice.

Or she can stay inside and post someone up.

“After we practiced a whole bunch with me on the guard I got used to it, so I felt more comfortable,” Zuniga said. “Now I feel like when I go back down to the post it’s kind of weird, but I still get it.”

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