Young Joens makes appearance in Game Time


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Courtney Joens ran among a flurry of black and white jerseys. She didn't look lost like most soon-to-be high school freshmen would in a game playing with college players. She looked calm and collected.

Joens, who will enroll at City High in the fall, is the youngest player in the Game Time League by three years. She hasn't even played a basketball game as a high-school student.

Joens dons the Coralville Hy-Vee uniform and is easily recognized by her all black Nikes and long blond ponytail. At times she was unsure of her feet while guarding her older and much more experienced opponents. Other times, she ran with no fear to the basket, fighting with women twice her size for a rebound.

"I've just been trying to get used to how they play. They're more aggressive and really quick," she said. "Coach tells me to shoot whenever I get the ball. The girls are faster than me, so it's hard to drive by them."

The college players have welcomed Joens with open arms — they see some of themselves in the young athlete. They were all her age once. They had the same ambitions. They're now the ones who Joens looks up to and hopes to someday be.

"[Iowa's] Trisha Nesbitt and [Wayne State's] Shantel Lehman have been really helpful," Joens said. "Trisha talks to me on the floor and gives me tips. Shantel sets a lot of screens for me."

Joens' team supported her both from the bench and on the court. The women were extremely vocal with each other every second of the game. None of the teams have the opportunity to practice during the week as during a high-school or college basketball season. The players get to know each other during the games.

"It's a big deal for her to be selected to play in this league," Nesbitt said. "It's going to be a great place for her to improve her skills and figure out the level she needs to be at. She looks confident out there. She's doing really great."

Joens mother, Lisa Joens, accompanied her to the game. The Coralville Hy-Vee team lost, but watching her daughter run up and down the court with experienced players brought a smile to the mother's face.

"[Game Time] challenges her and gives her an opportunity to see what's out there. It's good for her to play with kids who make her use her skills and work on the things that she needs too," Lisa Joens said. "I think the team has done well taking her under their wing, showing her where she belongs out there, and encouraging her to keep shooting. There's a lot of positive reinforcement."

Joens is steadily learning to drive against the bigger and stronger hoopsters in her league, but someone will have to drive the youngster to the rest of the Game Time contests — she's not old enough to have a driver's license.

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