CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Hollie German is a senior secondary math education major with a grade point average just a shade under 4.0 at Lee University. That's got to help her with all the numbers she puts up playing basketball.
Those include 2,061 points for her career -- she's the No. 4 Lady Flames scorer of all time, soon to be No. 3 and possibly No. 1 a month from now -- and 24.6 per game this season. That's with 3.2 assists a game as well.
The former Polk County star also realizes that three points per basket count 150 percent as much as a regular shot, so she's made 79 3-pointers at a remarkable clip of 48.5 percent. She further understands that every single point can make a difference, and she's made 85.4 percent of her 130 free throws. The next closest teammate has shot 57.
But all those figures are significant to German only because of numbers like these: 34-3 and 15-4. The first was the Lady Flames' record last year, when they were the NAIA Division I national runners-up. The second is this year's record in the program's move into NCAA Division II and the tough Gulf South Conference.
And such glittering success, the 2013 first-team NAIA All-American and overall NAIA scholar-athlete of the year knows, is the product of many, not of one -- and has meaning for many to come.
"I don't get caught up in personal goals. I'm just trying for us to finish strong as a team this first year in the conference," German said last week, just before the Lady Flames edged Union University for their eighth victory in a row. "I think up to this point we've done pretty well. We're setting that foundation for Lee in Division II."
While she sits out only about four minutes a game, no fewer than 11 Lady Flames have averaged at least 5.5 minutes. Among them are 6-foot-1 junior forward Jenna Adams from McMinn Central, who averages 16.4 points and 9.5 rebounds a game, and 5-10 fifth-year senior Rachel Lockhart, the clamp-down defensive whiz from Sequatchie County.
Karley Miller from Kingston Springs just west of Nashville is the other starting forward, and the other guard is junior Madison Lee from McMinn Central, who redshirted last year with a knee injury. With sophomores Melanie Barker from Sequatchie County, Kayla Beavers from Bradley Central and Jordan Neuharth from Walker Valley also contributing, coach Marty Rowe's team is doing quite well with a high percentage of area players.
Besides Miller, fellow senior Myriah Iles from Hendersonville is the only Lady Flame with double-figure minutes per game who's not from southeastern Tennessee. Those two along with German and Lockhart comprise a special group, Rowe said.
He readily says that German is the top player of his 16-year, 406-121 career and Lockhart is the best half-court defender, and Miller and Iles not only have been effective post complements to Adams but "relish their jobs and are great teammates and great role models" for the younger players.
"This group has an amazing knack of wanting to enjoy this last phase of their college careers," Rowe added. "I've had teams that panicked a little bit when they got close to the end, but this group seems to be enjoying it more and more. And they've done a great job of solely looking at a goal of one game at a time."
Lockhart said the team's experience helped inspire eager anticipation as opposed to apprehension about the school's move to the NCAA.
"I think we were pretty confident. We kind of gauged ourselves off teams that we had played that [made the NAIA-to-GSC move] last year, like Union and Shorter," she said. "It took a few games to get used to it, but we were confident.
"I'm really glad my senior group got to do this, and I'm glad to be finishing with the girls I'm finishing with. I think we've shown the younger group that we can do this transition, and they can continue it."
The Lady Flames quickly got past their area rivalries once they became teammates. Although Polk and McMinn Central were fierce opponents in District 5-AA, German and the Chargerettes' Lee didn't take long to become friends, then roommates. They share an off-campus house now.
"It was a mutual respect, I guess," Lee said of their high school feelings. "It was more of an organizational hatred -- nothing personal."
"But it was competitive," German acknowledged.
"I go after good players with good programs, players who want to win," Rowe said, "and they figure out how to work together to win. Then they end up being best friends."
Forced to take last year off, Lee stepped up her academic schedule and already has graduated, but she will play one more season as a graduate student -- and she'll assume even more of a leadership role.
"I think it's huge that I'll have her back with Jenna," Rowe said. "I would have loved to have had her playing last March, but we're fortunate to have her playing this year, and she's going to be a key vital part next year."
As for Adams, he noted, "Not many Division II teams have a 6-1 skill kid like her. She keeps getting better. She just loves to play the game. Not many SoCon and Ohio Valley teams have a player her size who can do what she does."
German's absence still will be obvious, the coach admitted.
"Hollie is the best player I've ever coached, and not just in games," he said. "Her work ethic is incredible. She's the first person I see every day when I walk in the door.
"She's made herself into a great basketball player, and her teammates know that and respect that. She deserves the season she's having. It's not by accident."
Contact Ron Bush at email@example.com or 423-757-6291.