There’s one particular exercise Clair Steele will never forget from UPB. And that’s Packie’s famous five-minute plank that would be thrown in at the end of workouts. Clair Steele used to dread those planks.
“I would just be in my head the whole time, “this sucks, this is the worst,” Steele thought. “He just made a comment, “it’s all in your head.” That’s basically what the game is. If you say you’re tired, you’re going to play tired. I still do those planks all the time.”
The level of mental toughness that Steele demonstrates in now voluntarily doing these five minute planks when she used to dread them is the same grit that makes her one the best point guards in the Patriot League. In her junior campaign for the Lehigh Mountain Hawks, Steele poured in 6.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per game while leading the league with an average of 4.4 assists per matchup. Steele was the motor for a squad that went 10-6 in the regular conference, and competed with a tough West Virginia squad in the NCAAW Tournament.
In her work at UPB last summer, besides planking of course, Steele says she most grew in her maturity on the court and in her ability to slow the game down and make the best possible play for her team.
“I’ve always been someone that loves to find my teammates,” Steele said. “If I get my teammates involved, I’m happy.”
The ability to make the best possible decision is not only essential in collegiate basketball, but in particular, the Patriot League. The league is home to the perennial upset contender in March Madness, as well as C.J. McCollum, who beat Duke as a member of the Mountain Hawks’ squad in 2012.
“They’re smart. They come at you in sneaky ways,” Steele said of the play in the Patriot League. “We’re not the most athletic league but we are probably one of the more strategic leagues.”
Growing not just mentally but athletically and agility-wise is something Steele hopes to improve before her senior season, so much so that she texted Packie right after leaving the San Antonio bubble. Losing to West Virginia gave her the roadmap to what type of player she wants to be, which is one who can finish through contact, and be counted on to make shots.
These goals not only led to a long conversation between Packie and Clair while leaving San Antonio, but a promising future for such a dedicated and consciously team-first guard.