Familiarity doesn’t always breed contempt.
Lauren Lloyd and Callie Johnson have been playing basketball together since Johnson moved from St. Louis to Columbia before the fourth grade. They have called many different people coach and played at Fairview Elementary School and on a number of other teams over the years.
The two seniors started their long playing career together for the Sisters, a Columbia Youth Basketball Association team. After her move, Johnson was a newcomer to the scene.
Lloyd remembered her first impression of Johnson when she showed up at Fairview.
“The first thing I thought was ‘that girl’s tall,’” Lloyd said.
Johnson said, “I think I’m always one of the tallest. It’s funny to look back at old pictures, ‘cause Lauren and I are the only people out of the whole team that still play basketball.”
Johnson said she remembers playing without a hardwood surface at Fairview.
“We played in a gym with carpet...I think it’s like basketball carpet or something...I guess it’s like for little kids, so they don’t fall and hurt themselves,” Johnson said.
Lloyd and Johnson are are closer now, and from playing so many years together, they notice things about one another that other players don’t.
“You just know like ‘you’re not hustling as hard’ or you know when she’s going to shoot. You’re able to read a person better from playing with them so long,” Johnson said. “I can anticipate when she’s going to shoot it...you can just tell by her face expression.”
Lloyd almost didn’t take any of those shots this season.
She said she was close to sitting out her senior season after a difficult junior year and the retirement of former coach Tonya Mirts.
“It was something I debated in my head. I was like, ‘OK, I have to make up my mind.’” Lloyd said.
Her father, Bill Lloyd, said he was “totally shocked” when she mentioned she might not play. He said basketball is her second priority behind her Baptist faith, but tied with her family.
“Those next couple months, I definitely missed it,” Lloyd said. “The big thing was...I could always go pick up a basketball and shoot, you know, but it was like I could never again put on that Hickman uniform. And that’s something that not a lot of people get to do. I mean, a lot of girls at Hickman don’t have that opportunity.”
New coach Curt Riley encouraged her not to quit for her senior year. Her family also discussed it.
“We had, between her mom and me, we had a lot of conversations at home,” her father said, “trying to stress to her how important this could be for her college career. And, even more than that, I think, just trying to reinforce with her that other folks that we’ve known who’ve quit early had regrets later. It’s not something you can go back and turn the clock back on.”
Eventually, her supporters convinced her to return.
Lloyd said Johnson helped her ease back onto the team once she had decided to play.
“We talked when she wasn’t gonna play,” Johnson said, “the positives and negatives about that.”
Returning to the team was not smooth. Because Lloyd had not planned on playing, she had missed the conditioning phase of practice that the rest of the team had sweated and worked through. Her return was a little uncomfortable.
“No doubt, they all worked hard in the offseason,” Lloyd said. “They were there at seven in the morning. I think they were all kinda like thinking that this may be a little unfair. I understood where they were coming from. (Johnson) was one of the first ones to say, ‘Ya know, I’m cool with you.’”
This season might not be the last time Lloyd and Johnson are teammates. Westminster College in Fulton is recruiting them, and they said they want to playtogether at the next level.
“If we don’t, that would be weird,” Johnson said. “To play against Lauren, that would be weird. I don’t think I’ve ever played against her, except maybe in practice.”
Lloyd said she has not decided whether she will play in college.
She will be playing Monday night when Hickman (10-14) hosts Hazelwood Central (17-4) at 7 p.m. The Hawks’ seven-game winning streak was foiled by Hazelwood East on Friday.