La PORTE — Riley Ott might be away at college, but that doesn't mean younger sister Ryin doesn't communicate with her every day.
While the elder Ott has moved on to Purdue Fort Wayne, where she's starting for the Mastodons as a freshman, Ryin Ott has had to deal with her sister and teammate on La Porte's girls basketball team being gone from home and the Slicers.
"It's been hard, but I've adjusted a lot," Ryin said. "We still keep in touch all the time. We were best friends and sisters, so... But it's been hard. She's always looking out for me and asking how everything's going. So it's nice support."
Ryin talks to Riley almost every day on the phone and they constantly text back and forth and send pictures and videos to each other.
Ryin added the backing she's received from her older sister has been special, because Riley can obviously relate to being on La Porte's team and being part of the Ott family.
"She's helped me a lot throughout my career, just telling me to always go hard and to do my best," Ryin said. "To always make my own decisions and be my own person. It's really helped me as a person and as a basketball player."
With Riley graduated, Ryin, a 5-foot-11 junior guard, is the undispiuted best player for the Slicers.
Last season, she averaged 15.6 points per game and easily led the team with 9.4 rebounds a contest. She added 1.3 steals per outing and shot an outstanding 40 percent behind the arc, greatly aiding the team's 16-8 record and sectional finals appearance.
This campaign, Ryin is eager to improve.
"She's a better 3-point shooter now," La Porte coach Rob Walker said. "And she takes charge more. That comes with any player from their sophomore to junior year, where players grow and they get stronger, but they know they have to take on more of the responsibility of being one of the main players."
At the same time, Ryin also recognizes she's going to be the focus of opposing teams as the Slicers' No. 1 option.
"I've going to have to fill a big role," she said. "Just giving good effort and having a positive attitude, and always being someone to rely on. And always being there for the underclassmen. And just being a positive leader."
In the offseason, Ryin participated in an underclass showcase for the second straight year, competing in the IBCA/IHSAA Girls Underclass Showcase at Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis in mid July. Ryin received college exposure and played against some of the elite players in the state.
That should only bode well for her this prep campaign.
Besides Ryin, the Slicers return some quality players in Kayla Jones, Nyla Asad and Lauren Pollock.
They've all had to transition without Riley Ott, who paced Purdue Fort Wayne with 18 points in its season-opening win over Purdue Northwest on Tuesday night.
“She was always one of the hardest workers I've known in my whole career playing basketball,” Ryin said. “And she would always push people to do their best. That's where me and my teammates need to step up and show the underclassmen what you need to do in practice and the effort you need to give.”
Walker isn't worried about the pressure Ryin's going to have to account for now that she's the squad's offensive leader.
“She'll be fine,” he added. “We've got a nice group out there. We've got three good guards in Nyla, Kayla and Alanti (Biggers). Actually, the two people on the team who've got sectional championship experience are Kayla and Nyla. They both played in that regional game and they're hungry for more. They're going to be a big part of this season with Ryin.”
In the end, dogged determination and all the players accepting and doing their jobs will be paramount, according to Ryin.
"We could be really successful," Ryin said. "We could even win the sectional and maybe finish pretty high in the DAC. So just giving all of our effort and everyone playing their role and having a good attitude will result in that."