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By Colin Harris | Staff Writer
When the Ravenna Ravens recently gathered in the locker room at the half, trailing the Norton Panthers, one player did his best rally his teammates.
It could have been any number of seniors who spoke up, but the fact that it was senior forward Jermaine Justice Jr. was an interesting statement about how much one player can grow during his career.
Justice has always been one of the best athletes in the Portage Trail Conference, but it was not until this season that he has become the kind of player Ravenna head coach Phil Starks expected him to be.
"We named Jermaine a captain this season because we wanted to motivate him," Starks said. "Being a captain makes him more accountable for his actions, and he has really run with that responsibility."
Justice is thriving in his role, leading Ravenna in scoring at 17 points per game while also pulling down 10 rebounds per contest.
Standing nearly 6-foot-6 with tremendous athleticism, Justice is a matchup nightmare for teams around the PTC, especially around the glass.
During the off-season, Justice said that he worked to maximize his natural gifts and also to shed the reputation that he was only a shooter.
"I've spent a lot of time working on my big-man skills inside the paint," Justice said. "Toward the end of last season, I was really starting to chew up rebounds and get points around the hoop, and I just really wanted to keep that going into this year."
While being a human double-double has certainly maximized his on-court ability, it is the leadership side of his grown that has ultimately made him a new player.
"I've been playing on varsity since I was a freshman," Justice said. "And I've seen seniors who weren't doing a lot to help out the younger players.
"I'm just trying to help everyone this season," Justice said. "I want to be the guy who gets his teammates pumped and gets them hype to go out and compete."
Starks said he absolutely has seen the growth.
"Maturity wise, Jermaine has grown so much," Starks said. "We had a team meeting earlier this year and Jermaine was the one who stood up and said that he was willing to do whatever it took for this team to win. I don't know if that's something he would have done even last season.
"Jermaine is just a lot more comfortable with his team and what we're asking him to do this year," Starks said.
Norton went on to win its matchup with Ravenna earlier this season, but it did not come without some team development.
"I talked with my senior teammates about how this is our last chance to play together," Justice said. "We want to win a league title, but we know we're going to have to go win by win and do it as a team."