In Brooke Carlson’s first two varsity seasons, Batavia’s offense ran through center Tessa Towers.
With the 6-foot-5 Towers off to Wisconsin, however, the Bulldogs are getting out into the open court and running this season.
That suits Carlson just fine.
“With Tessa, we wanted to play through her in the post,” she said. “This year, we have more guards and we run and get out in transition and do everything quickly.
“It’s been so fun, and we have a lot of guards who have a really high IQ, so it’s been even more fun.”
The junior point guard is now the focal point for Batavia (3-1), which opened the season with an overnight trip last weekend to downstate Morton to play four games in two days.
Already, Carlson leads the Bulldogs in scoring with 19 points and in steals with 3.8. She’s second on the team with 4.5 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
“It’s fun to see her come into her own,” Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said of Carlson. “She’s always been very confident, but she’s getting more confident in her own skin and learning how to be a leader.”
Jensen sees a lot of parallels between Carlson and Liz Fruendt, the program’s all-time leading scorer who’s now an assistant coach at Tennessee.
Although their scoring styles are different, with Fruendt’s range starting around half court and Carlson converting defense to offense and getting to the basket, comparisons between the two are inevitable.
“They’re very similar in personality and very similar in their competitive nature,” Jensen said. “I’ve joked about it with both of them. There are so many things that overlap.”
Carlson said she and her teammates all looked up to Fruendt growing up, and she’s had the chance to interact with her through the years.
“She was the biggest inspiration in Batavia, seeing how much she accomplished and where she went to play,” Carlson said of Missouri State. “I had the mindset that I wanted to be like her when I was older.”
Accolades and records are another way Carlson and Fruendt will be linked.
Despite a truncated freshman season due to the pandemic and playing alongside a major Division I recruit in Towers, Carlson is only 133 points away from 1,000 for her career. She’s also on pace to set the program’s assist record.
“She’s pretty talented,” Jensen said of Carlson. “When somebody gets to 1,000 this early, 2,000 is in the conversation. It really would have been in the conversation if she hadn’t had the shortened season.”
The 5-foot-6 Carlson has Division I offers from Bradley, Butler, Cleveland State, DePaul, Evansville, Illinois State, UAB and Wright State.
Jensen expects that number to rise as the 2024 class is still feeling the trickle-down recruiting effects from extra years of eligibility and the transfer portal.
For Carlson, it’s just a chance to do what she does best — build a rapport with coaches.
“It’s been going really well,” Carlson said. “I like building connections with people and learning their ways of coaching. The biggest thing with me is the relationships, and I feel like I’ve made good relationships with people.”
Those coaches are beginning to see Carlson in her true element as she creates turnovers and uses her athleticism to spark the Bulldogs.
“We’re playing at a faster pace than we have the past couple years,” Jensen said. “We’re giving them the freedom to play to their strengths. I think our kids love getting up and down. It’s fun to coach.”
Carlson loves how things have started this season.
“It’s been so cool,” Carlson said. “We all know how to play together. It’s been fun. Taking a leadership role has also been fun.
“I think it’s really cool to see how I’ve progressed and how that has paid off.”
Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.