Tyasia Stephenson of Nottingham High School is presented the Fish4Scores.com Athlete of the Week T-Shirt and Gift card from Rossi’s Bar and Grill Co-Owner Alan Meinster. Photo by Michael A. Sabo.
After playing a supporting role, Stephenson has stepped up in a big way for Northstars
By Rich Fisher
Jan. 25: Telling someone they have to step up their offensive production and then having them actually do it is not always guaranteed.
But Lauren Kelly told that to Tyasia Stephenson, and the senior has taken it to heart for the Nottingham High girls’ basketball team.
The Northstars are on a five-game winning streak, which started with victories over West Windsor-Plainsboro South and Steinert. In those two contests, Stephenson collected 33 points, 22 rebounds, five assists and three steals.
For her efforts, Tyasia Stephenson is the Fish4scores/Rossi’s Athlete of the Week for the week of Jan. 8-14.
“She has just stepped up, in that she plays way bigger than she is,” said Kelly, while taking a break from searching for a new hot water heater. “She dominates on the boards, she’s finishing at the foul line and finishing her lay-ups. She’s doing what’s asked of her. She’s mentally focused, stepping up as a leader and that’s what we expected of her this year.”
It’s a role that Tyasia is enjoying. Along with senior Haylee Kieffer, she provides leadership but does not do it in an in-your-face way.
“I didn’t want to come off as ‘I’m better than you, if you average as much as me, then you can talk,’” Stephenson said. “I want to make sure we’re a family. That should be first. You can’t play like this if you’re not a family and you don’t have good communication skills. It’s not gonna work.”
Stephenson is averaging 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game and was phenomenal in the J. Michael Tucker Christmas Tournament with 47 points and 19 rebounds. Nottingham slumped after that with three straight losses.
With the Stars needing a win badly, Stephenson had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a 42-33 win over WW-PS. She followed that with 18 points, eight rebounds, three steals and three assists in a 54-51 victory over Steinert to give the Stars momentum they have continued to carry.
“Anything coach Kelly asks me to do I’m gonna step up and do,” Stephenson said. “If she wants me to be a center if Hayley fouls out, I’m a center. If she wants me to be a point guard, I’m a point guard. I need to be diverse and be able to play one through five on the court and do everything.”
During her first three seasons, Stephenson was able to operate without too much attention, as she was a complementary scorer behind Nottingham’s other big guns. This season, she is front and center.
“She had to work her way into this role,” Kelly said. “She’s a natural scorer but I think this was the first time the team looked to her to score and that’s something that takes getting used to. She was able to be a supplement to other girls who have been our leading scorers in the past.
“But it’s not just scoring. She just brings an all-around game and makes things happen when she’s on the court. She’s very intense and when she gets fired up, the rest of the girls get fired up. Those are things that don’t necessarily go on the stat sheet all the time but when she’s on the court good things happen.”
Stephenson has noticed a little more defensive attention this year, but isn’t letting it bother her. With Nottingham enjoying an 8-6 record, she is loving life.
“When I go to the basket now I get harder fouls, they don’t want me to get an and-one,” she said. “It’s not easy, it’s definitely not easy. But it’s way more fun, especially with a winning record. We’ve been at .500 (last year) but I want to be way better this year. I want to go out with a bang.”