Julia Becker knew something was different when she grabbed her first rebound this season.
The Tivy senior guard’s first instinct was to toss an outlet pass to either her older sister, Charli Becker, Katie Harmon or Peyton Ives. There was just one problem: All those players had graduated in May. In that moment, Julia Becker realized she might as well bring the ball down the court herself, considering she was one of the most experienced ball handlers on the team.
That’s when she also realized she was going to have to play a much larger role than in past years if the Lady Antlers were going to succeed this season.
“A lot of times (this season), I feel like I have to be the one coming back to the ball to make sure (the rebounder) has help,” Julia Becker said. “Charli is no longer here, so it’s got to be me and others who have to handle the ball.”
Julia Becker also relied on last year’s seniors to lead the team. But this season? That’s one of her main responsibilities, too. By all accounts, though, she and her three senior cohorts (Audrey Robertson, Liz Twiss and Presleigh Way) have thrived in their new leadership roles. It’s a major reason why the Lady Antlers (6-2, 1-0 District 26-5A) have gelled so far this season, even though they graduated seven seniors from last year’s state semifinal team. They will try to keep rolling today at the Hays Tournament.
“She’s such a great encourager and coach during practices and games,” said Robertson, who recently signed to play at Lubbock Christian University, the reigning Division II national champion. “It’s different this year, because last year we weren’t really the leaders. So when I heard Jules coaching everyone up, it was really nice to have that.
“In a game, it’s really nice to have her on defense. When she’s defending so hard and pressuring the ball handler, we can rotate behind and get steals, just because she rattled the ball handler. It really helps our whole defense just by having her on one of the (opposing team’s) main players.”
For the past two years, Julia Becker has prided herself on being Tivy’s defensive stopper. During that span, the Lady Antlers have won 70 games and secured two appearances in the state semifinals. Julia Becker’s defense has helped fuel that success.
Last year, Tivy played San Antonio Veterans Memorial four times, including in the Region IV championship. In all four games, Julia Becker primarily defended Texas A&M signee Sahara Jones, the No. 92 player in ESPN’s 2020 individual ranking. All four times, she limited Jones’ production to help Tivy win.
Her defensive efforts have obviously inspired her teammates — everyone on Tivy’s roster is defending this year, considering the Lady Antlers are only permitting 31 points per game.
“She wants the other team’s best player and prides herself on getting stops,” Tivy coach Christy Dill said. “Her defense has won a lot of ball games for us. She hasn’t always gotten the recognition she deserves because people don’t notice that side of the game. They notice the scoring, they notice a big steal, but they don’t notice the person denying that pass. … Most people don’t notice all the work she’s putting in.”
That’s going to change this season considering Julia Becker has no choice but contribute more on the offensive end. In the past two years, she didn’t really have to score that much. Her older sister, Charli Becker, Harmon, Ives, Robertson and Catherine Kaiser could all score from anywhere on the court. But all those players except Robertson have left the program.
The good news is that Julia didn’t have to look too far for advice. Charli Becker, currently a freshman at St. Edwards, gave her younger sister a pep talk before the season, encouraging her to have more confidence in her offensive game. So far, Julia Becker has followed her sister’s urging. She’s been efficient offensively, averaging 8.3 points per game on 42 percent shooting and dishing out four assists per contest.
The Lady Antlers need Julia Becker to continue to play at a high level. Once again, she will have to contain Veterans Memorial’s Jones if Tivy hopes to repeat as district champions. And she will have to continue to produce offensively while the younger players continue to adjust to playing at the varsity level.
Julia Becker, though, has embraced all these responsibilities. After all, she’s never been one to shy away from a challenge.
“It’s a lot different because I never really had to be the one who made things happen (offensively),” Julia Becker said. “Being able to do both (offense and defense) is a lot more work and pressure, but it’s fun being able to feel like I can do it and help lead this team.”