Mohawk’s Yarletts saving her best for last
Something strange happened to Taylor Yarletts over the summer.
She woke up — literally and figuratively. The alarm clock in her brain finally went off, just in time for her senior year on the Mohawk High girls basketball team.
“I normally didn’t show up during the summer,” said Yarletts of offseason workouts. “I just never got out of bed or anything, but he (Mohawk coach Mike O’Lare) really pushed me to come and my teammates were always like, ‘Just wake up. It’s not that bad.’ So, I just decided to do it.”
The newfound motivation went a long way in awakening her basketball skills, too.
Yarletts, one of two seniors for the Lady Warriors, has quadrupled her scoring from last year, when she averaged just less than 3 points per game. This season, she’s second on the team with an 11.5 scoring average, which is just percentage points behind teammate Shelby Brown.
She was especially sharp last week, pouring in a career-high 17 points in a win over New Brighton and adding 16 in a victory over Neshannock. The performance not only helped continue Mohawk’s current winning streak (now at eight games), but earned her Lawrence County Athlete of the Week honors, an award sponsored by Washington Centre Physical Therapy and selected by the New Castle News sports staff.
The reason for Yarletts’ sudden success isn’t hard to figure out.
The self-discipline to develop her talents came when it dawned on her that this was her final season of high school basketball, a game she’s played since she was a little kid shooting hoops with her grandfather. And while it may have taken a little longer than O’Lare would’ve liked, he said he’s enjoying the results almost as much as Yarletts.
“Work ethic has been her biggest detriment over these four years, but also, in the last year, it’s been her biggest positive,” said O’Lare, who was quick to add that Yarletts was never a troublemaker. “We struggled like heck for years to get her to be here on time, to make sure she was here in the offseason to put in time because we knew of the potential she had. And this year, starting last summer, she truly bought in.
“Of all the kids I’ve coached here, she’s probably had the biggest increase in terms of her output,” he added. “Top to bottom, from ninth grade to 12th grade, she’s definitely the most improved player we’ve had here.”
Yarletts, a slashing 5-foot-5 guard who possesses good speed and touch around the hoop, said her biggest drawback was dribbling and finishing with her left hand. The lack of natural movement with her left hand (she’s right-handed) was frustrating, and trying to improve her mobility and ball-handling skills with that arm was equally upsetting. Even so, she made that her main focus during the summer.
“I didn’t really have a left hand,” she laughed. “Coach would always push me. I’d be the only person who would have to do all left-handed drills, and I hated them because I would be losing the ball. But, now I have better ballhandling.”
Yarletts’ vast improvement has impressed even her. She never envisioned enjoying the type of season she’s having, even after working as hard as she did. Much of the offense now centers around her, and much of team relies on the energy, leadership and scoring she provides.
All of those attributes, O’Lare said, are a direct result of her change in attitude.
“There were days where I was calling her at home because she was sleeping in, and now she’s the first one here and she can’t wait to play,” he said. “There’s just a maturity that happened — with a little bit of threatening.”