Michelle Obach told her coach she’d have to miss the second half of a tournament semifinal in Dallas with her club team.
Her high school, T.K. Gorman, was playing in the regional tournament nearby in Plano and she had to be there.
Only Obach wasn’t yet on the team — she was still an eighth grader. Yet her commitment to the Lady Crusaders was already evident.
Now a junior, Obach returns to that same site for the fourth straight year — third as a starter.
Gorman’s leading scorer the last two years, Obach has the Lady Crusaders eyeing a prize they haven’t seen since she was in eighth grade — the final four.
Obach will lead Gorman into its TAPPS 4A regional playoff on Saturday against Houston Second Baptist, the same team Obach watched the Lady Crusaders beat in 2009 for the school’s first trip to state.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said of watching her future teammates in 2009. “It got me real excited for the next few years.”
The next few years, however, have yet to yield a return to the state tournament, something Obach and her teammates are ready to change.
Obach leads Gorman in scoring with 20.2 points per game, about a third of the team’s average. She’s hit 52 3-pointers while shooting 46 percent from beyond the arc. She also averages 3.0 assists to 1.1 turnovers.
“It’s fun,” she said of being the go-to scorer. “At the same time it’s just my role. I think everyone contributes to the team and this is just what I can bring to the table. I’ll do anything I can to really contribute to this team and if that’s what I can do then that’s what I’ll do.”
Gorman coach Katie Robertson said her star has every offensive skill you could want in a guard.
“She can create her shot, she can drive it in, she can pull up for a jumper when she needs to and she has the long-range shot,” Robertson said. “It’s hard to stop her because there’s not a certain way you can guard her. She’s going to play to whatever the defense is giving her.”
Obach also has a long wingspan, which helps her grab 3.0 steals per game. Along with senior guard Cori Jo Navarro (3.8 steals), she helps lead a defense that held district opponents to 32.8 points per game.
“You learn a certain body language and who can handle your pressure and who can’t,” Obach said. “It’s a lot of energy and wanting the ball.”
Active on the court and off, Obach is an avid basketball fan — both NBA and college. She’s become a fan of Jeremy Lin, falling victim to “Linsanity.”
“I like that he’s an underdog,” Obach said. “He’s finding success because he worked hard and has stuck with it and I think that’s something that everyone can look up to.”
While Lin had no athletic scholarship offers out of high school, Obach is already receiving interest from a few Division I programs.
Robertson, who played at Oklahoma State and has coached Obach since she was in eighth grade, said she sees Obach as a player capable of succeeding at the next level.
“She always rises to the occasion,” Robertson said. “She knows what we need in the game situation. She knows when I need her to step up and be a leader or when I need her to create other shots for other people.
“It’s almost a blessing to be able to see her grow from eighth grade to now and I’m still going to have her another year. She’s just such a special and a smart player.”
Pac-12 school Utah was at Gorman’s 52-17 win over Grapevine Faith Christian last week and UT Arlington went to a few Gorman games in Dallas. Even Lin’s alma mater, Harvard, has asked about Obach.
“I try to focus more on what’s right in front of me,” Obach said of recruiting. “I keep it in the back of my mind but right now the main focus is trying to get to state.”
State goes through Plano John Paul II High School yet again for the Lady Crusaders, who lost to Tomball Concordia Lutheran in the regional round the last two years.
Obach scored nine points as a freshman on a senior-laden team against TCL. Last year as a sophomore on a team full of sophomores, she scored a team-high 17 in the team’s playoff loss.
“It would mean the world to us,” Obach said of reaching state. “Especially this year being a little bit older, being a little bit less naïve. I think it would be really great for us after all the work we’ve put into it.”
For all Obach’s attributes — scoring, passing, defense — her leadership and experience may be called upon most on Saturday.
“She’s really matured,” Robertson said of Obach. “Going into this regional game, she’s been there the last two years, she’s coming back again so she knows what to expect.
“She’s the most experienced; she’s put in the hours through the summer.”
On Saturday, Obach hopes to watch Gorman celebrate a regional playoff win much like she did three years ago.
“I have to be a leader,” she said. “I have some of the most experience on the team as far as playing in big games. I have to keep a level head and play with a lot of heart and I think if I can do that then I can succeed.”
NOTES: Gorman (30-6) plays Second Baptist (26-10) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Plano John Paul II High School. … The winner of Saturday’s game plays either Houston Westbury Christian or Fort Worth Christian in a state semifinal at 6 p.m. March 2 at Mansfield Legacy High School.