If stealing in basketball was a crime, Freeport's Mary Kate Myrick would be a criminal mastermind.
"I think the biggest rush is stealing, that's my favorite part," said the 17-year-old junior shooting guard and forward for the Freeport varsity Bulldogs.
And her secret to snatching 76 steals is, "You just look at their eyes," she said.
In recent weeks, Mary Kate even had her hand caught on someone's braces while trying to steal the ball.
"Dad gets a little frustrated sometimes because we try to steal a lot and we get into foul trouble," she said. "And foul trouble happens a lot."
And if dad gets frustrated, he's got reason. He's the coach.
Mike Myrick has been Mary Kate's coach pretty much all of her basketball career, which started at an early age.
"I think I started playing basketball when I came out of the womb," she said and laughed.
"She's been coming in the gym since she was old enough to walk," Mike added. "Her and Colin (her brother) would play over in the corner while I coached the other girls. She's a true gym rat."
Her Dad says she has a lot of natural ability.
"She's also smart about the game,” he said. “She plays hard all the time and she wants to win all the time."
And win is something the Bulldogs have done a lot of this year. After last week’s 60-41 win over North Bay Haven, the Bulldogs are sitting at 19-5 overall.
Mary Kate has accumulated 392 points in 24 games, pulled down 164 rebounds and has 75 assists.
"Fast breaks are fun. I love to shoot it," she said, noting that 3s are her favorite. This year alone she has knocked down 52 3s in 24 games.
"I think it was seventh grade when I got really serious about wanting to shoot it," she said, noting she would practice with her brother for hours.
As a ninth grader she made the varsity and has seen the team go through some rough seasons, 9-16 last year and 6-20 in 2011-2012.
But this year things are looking up, and the Lady Bulldogs swept the Sandestin Hilton Christmas Basketball Blowout for the first time ever.
"It's nice to be on top …" she said. “No other team has won that first game to get in the winners bracket.”
"We want to go to state," Mary Kate said. "But right now we're looking to do well in districts.”
And Chipley and Bonifay loom large.
“It's tough for us, but anything is possible with our team," she said.
And that team-spirit is why the coach’s daughter is a leader on the team.
"She's not a yeller; she doesn't get on to the other kids. She leads by example, which is the best type of leader," Mike said.
MY COACH, MY FATHER
Is it hard to separate the roles of being coach and dad/player and daughter?
"Not really," Mike Myrick said. "The caliber player and person she is … she knows I'm going to get on to her when I need to, but it's not very often. She's good on anticipation of where the ball is going. She gets to places that other people wouldn't get to because she anticipates where it's going to go."
As her father, Mike says he probably expects a little too much some times.
"I expect her to make the shots. I expect her get the rebounds. I expect her to do that stuff. I probably don't praise her enough for what she does."
For her part Mary Kate sees the advantages and disadvantages of the relationship.
"I hear about it when we come home," she said. "If I mess up big time, I'm going to hear about it."
Her mother Patsy even gets in on the action.
"She's on the fence, but she will call me out if I mess up."
But pros readily outweigh the cons.
"I love it because I know his style and I think it's important to know a coach’s style," she said. "I know what dad expects of us and I can carry that out on the court as well. I can voice it to the other girls on the team, whereas they wouldn't understand it as much as I would."