Edgewater senior Nyala Shuler was not always the girl that teammates turned to for advice.
Or to take the big shot. Or the one expected to lead.
Before guiding the Eagles to three straight state championships, she was just the new kid.
"I had to pick up balls after practice and stuff, and everyone is always calling you 'freshman,'" Shuler said.
They will again when the Sentinel's all-area girls basketball Player of the Year begins her career at UCF. Like other top area players, among them Edgewater teammate Haley Clark (Georgia), Dr. Phillips' Ionna McKenzie (Texas Tech) and Jones' Dominique Simpson (West Virginia), Shuler will start over with a new team in the fall.
Each will have to learn new plays, some in a new city, and join a team that includes players who often were as good — or better — than them in high school. Shuler, an Edgewater captain, led the Eagles with team highs of 452 points and 324 rebounds this past season.
"I'm nervous because everyone tells me college basketball is a lot more difficult than high school, and I have to work a lot harder," said Shuler, who plans to major in health sciences, then attend medical school.
"When I went to UCF games this year, compared to high-school girls I've been playing against, they definitely looked faster, bigger and stronger."
Both of Shuler's parents participated in state tournaments in high school and played at Stetson.
"The teammates [in college] who are there, they've all been recruited,'' Tim Shuler said. "They're the best of the best. It becomes a business and it's very serious, on the academic side and athletic side.
"Nothing really prepares you for the type of practices that are more intense. Then you're sore, and you have to get up and go to class."
Practices could include helping push a truck uphill, like former Orlando University player January Miller experienced last year as a freshman at Florida. When she played at Middle Tennessee State, Lake Howell coach Sara Nuxol said preseason conditioning involved lifting tractor tires and running the length of a football field in under 13 seconds.
"You think you're working hard and then you get there, and you haven't seen anything like it," said Nuxol, who graduated from Winter Springs in 2004. "The weight training is ridiculous. Being a freshman in general is hard, but if you can survive preseason, the rest is a breeze.
"I tell my kids, 'You think I'm joking. It's going to be hard. You're going to want to give up and go home, but don't quit.'"
If Shuler had gone to Oklahoma State when West Orange coach Misty Cox did in the 1970s, she would have had to survive more than preseason workouts.
"For us, [freshman initiation] was going to a grocery store and laying on the ground and pretending we were being fried like bacon, saying 'Sizzle. Sizzle,'" Cox said, lightheartedly. "One day, we had to dress up a little funky and sit in our college classes, and they came by and made sure we looked ridiculous."
Shuler probably won't have to worry about acting like any grocery-store items, but wonders whether she'll have to chase balls at practice.
"I haven't heard of anything," Shuler said, laughing, "but maybe they're just not telling me to make sure I come."