Playing basketball for big sister is nothing new. Sydney Mize did it for four years in AAU.
But when she decided to sign on for another four, this time in college, big sister — Drea Mize — wasn’t sure it was a great idea.
After all, it’s one thing to coach little sister in AAU, and quite another to do it college.
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But now that it’s going to happen, the Whiteland siblings couldn’t be happier.
“Oh, yeah, I’m so excited,” said Sydney, who recently signed a litter of intent to play at Martin Methodist College in Pulaski, Tennessee, where Drea is a first-year assistant coach. “I loved having her as coach for my AAU (team), and now to have her for college, too, is great.”
A senior point guard on the Whiteland Community High School girls team, Sydney found her college home in an indirect way.
She did so after visiting Drea during the summer, shortly after Drea — herself a former Whiteland player and former Indiana University women’s player — was hired at the NAIA Division I school.
Enamored of the rural scenery, cozy campus size (about 1,200 students), southern hospitality and the success of the basketball program, Sydney — who was just beginning to explore college options — asked head coach Kyle Bent about the possibility of playing for the RedHawks.
Bent was open to the idea, tracked her progress during the summer and, after deciding she was a good fit, offered a scholarship.
Drea remembers it this way.
“It wasn’t as easy of a route as people probably think, just because I’m a little bit harder on her than anyone,” she said. “I’m her biggest critic, so I was kind of skeptical about it first.
“But coach Bent really believed in her and believed in my relationship with her, and we do have a pretty good relationship, so we decided to move forward with it.”
And the sister/coach relationship, which began four years ago, continues.
Throughout her playing career at IU, Drea coached Sydney’s AAU team, the Indiana Flight. Though awkward at first, the sisters learned to function as coach and player in a way that was mutually beneficial.
Drea matured as a coach. Sydney grew as a player.
“Just having that switch where when you get on the court, ‘I’m the coach, you’re the player, there is no more sister,’ and that she’s treated as an equal, I think our first year being that duo was really hard to grasp for us,” Drea said. “But as the last couple of years have gone by, it actually helped us, because she knows what I expect. She responds really well, and I know what she’s capable of and what she’s not.
“She really helped get our team on the same page multiple times, and I think having me be her coach made her grow up a lot quicker.”
Sydney agreed the arrangement took some getting used to.
“At first it was a little bit rocky, because I wasn’t used to having my older sister not only command me what to do at home, like she did on occasion, but now it’s on the court, too,” Sydney said. “I had to make a few adjustments. At first I would argue back with her, or talk when I shouldn’t be talking. But I finally learned that if I would just listen to her and hear what she had to say, then she’d maybe let me talk to her and tell her what I had to say, and we could start working off of each other and communicating that way.
“After that first year went by, it definitely started clicking more. It went well after that.”
Drea and Sydney are confident the relationship will continue to go well. But Sydney isn’t looking too far ahead.
With two games left in the regular season, Whiteland is poised for its first winning season since 2011. The Warriors were 10-8 heading into Thursday’s game at Shelbyville and are confident of contending for a sectional championship.
That’s Sydney’s focus as the postseason approaches.
“I feel like we’re very prepared,” said Sydney, who missed five games earlier in the season with a separated shoulder. “If we keep this positive energy going, we have a great chance at the sectional this year.”
A vocal and emotional leader and team captain, Sydney has played a prominent role in the Warriors’ success. She averages a team-high 4.0 assists per game, 1.2 steals per game and routinely sets the table for scoring leaders Mackenzie Blazek (17.1 ppg) and Sydney Crowe (10.6 ppg).
“Sydney brings a passion for basketball that is evident on a daily basis,” Whiteland coach Kyle Shipp said. “Her work ethic is another huge strength. She has the ability to see things develop and make the correct basketball play.
“She has handled the pressures of being a major ball handler better this year and improved upon making her teammates better by putting them in scoring positions.”
Sydney’s leadership and ball-handling skills are among the qualities attracted Martin Methodist, which is 14-6 so far this season and bidding for a second straight trip to the NAIA National Tournament.
Once skeptical of continuing the coach/sibiling relationship, Drea can’t wait for little sister to arrive.
“Whether I’m talking to her in a sister tone or I’m talking to her as a coach, that’ll probably be the most interesting dynamic,” said Drea, noting that the sisters have nearly identical personalities but totally different playing styles.
“I was the running, jumping, get to the basket-type player. I just based everything off athleticism,” Drea said. “She is the shooting, the leadership, the game-time player that you want because she has such a high basketball IQ.
“It’s funny how different we are, but off the court we are so alike, it’s scary.”
Name: Drea Mize
Occupation: Assistant women’s basketball coach at Martin Methodist College
High school: Whiteland (2011)
College: Indiana University (2015)
Playing experience: Played four seasons at Whiteland and three years at IU as a walk-on; appeared in 43 career games for the Hoosiers.
Parents: David and Nicole Mize
Name: Sydney Mize
High school: Whiteland
Position: Point guard
College plans: Will continue basketball career at Martin Methodist College
Major: Considering elementary education and nursing
Parents: David and Nicole Mize