How the tallest and shortest Sailors contribute to their teams
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — One letter and 18 inches separate Eric and Erica, the tallest and shortest members of the Steamboat Springs high school basketball teams.
Eric Pollert, a junior, is 6-foot-7. Erica Simmons, also a junior, is 5-foot-1.
The pair happen to play in the same sneakers, as Simmons wears black Nike KDs and Pollert dons customized red ones. While they may stand in the same shoes, what they bring to the floor is far different, but equally important to their teams.
Simmons has been playing basketball since the second grade when she lived in Tennessee. She admitted a little bit of peer pressure got her into the sport.
“My friend’s dad was the coach so he got us all to go play,” she said.
In fifth grade, the same year she moved to Steamboat, she realized she had stopped growing. That didn’t deter her from the game she loved. As a third-year varsity player for the Sailors, Simmons is a veteran and a role model. She helps guide the offense when senior captains Shelbee Weiss and Siera Harrison aren’t on the floor.
She is almost always the smallest player on the floor, but she’s quick and confident.
Pollert picked up the game in middle school because he felt ‘inclined to do it’ due to his rapidly increasing height.
“I wasn’t very good back then,” he said.
Steamboat Springs head coach Michael Vandahl saw Pollert play in a camp when the Sailor was in eighth grade.
“I kind of saw an athleticism that a lot of big guys don’t have,” said Vandahl.
As Pollert grew taller, his love for the game grew stronger. Now he doesn’t feel the need to play because of his size, but a desire to, as well as a drive to improve.
“I feel like I have a lot of space to improve which is really exciting to me because I have a higher ceiling,” he said. “I just have a high capability and it’s interesting to see how far I can go.”
Pollert makes plays in the paint, both on defense and offense. He can score with a small hop, or snag a rebound over the heads of others. Still, Vandahl and Pollert agree that the Pollert’s play will improve with more experience, and therefore more confidence.
“He’s got a lot of natural gifts,” said Vandahl. “What I see from him the most, he’s really, really dedicated and he wants to be good really bad. He’s been working, not just in practice. Since he’s been in the program he’s been working really hard. He calls me non-stop to try to get in the gym. He’s really come a long way from where he started.”
Before basketball, he was a soccer goalie, a position Pollert thinks improved his agility and athleticism. This year, he didn’t play a fall sport so he could spend more time in the gym shooting and improving his skills for winter. He doesn’t have plans to do a spring sport either, but hasn’t ruled out joining the track team.
Simmons is also debating on doing a spring sport and said she might try lacrosse. In the fall, she is a scrappy defensive specialist for the Sailors volleyball team. In the back row, her smaller stature helps her stay low to the ground and dig any balls that come her way.
Right now, both Pollert and Simmons are completely focused on basketball. Despite the pair heavily contributing to their teams, neither Sailors squad is off to a strong start of the season. The boys are 2-7 after one day at the Roughrider Shootout at Roosevelt High School and the girls are 1-6.
“Our record is not fantastic right now, but we’ve played some really good teams and we’re definitely a lot better than we were last year,” said Simmons. “We’re forcing a lot of turnovers, which is really cool, we just need to finish our steals and layups and stuff. During league it’ll be fun to see what happens with that.”
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