VALLEY CENTER — Miriam Zabinsky is a little reserved, quiet, shy even. But when she gets on the basketball court, all of that changes.
Her persona transforms into a take-charge player, one who scores 20 points per game for the Valley Center High girls basketball team.
“I’m a scorer,” the 5-foot-9 Zabinsky said, somewhat reluctantly, definitely not wanting to talk about herself. “I try to dish, but I know they rely on me to score.”
Zabinsky, now a junior, broke into the starting lineup about 10 games into her freshman season, coach Tony Casillas said. She can shoot from the outside, drive to the basket where she pulls up for a jumper or goes in for a layup and draws plenty of fouls.
“She has that basketball IQ,” Casillas said. “She’s aggressive on the court, shows no fear. She can shoot it from anywhere. She’s a great leader; she’s our team captain. She might not be able to jump as high as (some), even though she plays volleyball. She can really get up in volleyball.”
The Jaguars were 18-13 in volleyball last fall and reached the quarterfinals in the section Division III playoffs.
Zabinsky also ran track as a freshman, but her real game is basketball.
In addition to her scoring, Zabinsky averages about six steals and more than six rebounds per game. In fact, Casillas said, Miriam reminds him of another basketball player he used to watch at Valley Center. Though he was not the coach at the time, Casillas saw another Zabinsky play for the Jaguars — Bonnie Zabinsky, Miriam’s older sister who graduated in 2005 and went on to play four years at Point Loma Nazarene.
Asked how long she has been playing basketball, Miriam responded, “Since I could walk.”
That’s because she always looked up to her older sister. Bonnie, seven years older, started playing competitively in the third grade.
Needless to say, they’ve had and still have some competitive games on the hoop at home.
“I usually beat her, but I don’t know if she’s taking it easy on me or not,” Miriam said.
Bonnie tells a little different story when it comes to one on one.
“I used to kill her, and now it’s about even. She used to be able to not get a shot off,” said Bonnie, who is now at Westminster College in Salt Lake City earning her master’s in education with the hope of being a high school history teacher and basketball coach. Bonnie is also an assistant coach at Westminster. “She’s got the best pull-up jumper I’ve ever seen from a high school girl. She drives in, pulls up and makes it every time.”
Miriam might not reach Bonnie’s all-time scoring mark at Valley Center — Bonnie started all four years — but she’ll give it a run.
Miriam’s goal is to play at the Division I level, but she might not be tall enough or quite fast enough. She will play somewhere, though. It’s just a little early as a junior and for the type of schools that will be interested to come calling.
“I’m not sure about Division I, but what do I know?” Casillas said. “She could average 30 points a game next year. She’s tough to guard. You give her a little space and it’s over. It’s nice to see a player so mature.”
At this point, Miriam plays wherever Casillas needs her, whether it’s at the point, off guard or small forward. She can even take the ball into the paint and post up her opponent if necessary.
The Jaguars are 11-11 on the season, but have a good chance with a 2-1 start in the Valley League, which also features Canyon Crest, Del Norte, San Dieguito Academy and Orange Glen.
“We’ve improved a lot the past two years, but we still have a lot of work to do,” Zabinsky said. “Our goal is the league championship, and we’ll take it from there.”