Lakeville North coach Shelly Clemons knows the comparisons will be there.
The Panthers girls’ basketball program is well-known for churning out top-end talent. Many believe sophomore guard Temi Carda is the next in line.
In her third full varsity season, the 5-10 Carda has established herself as a natural scorer, leading the team with an average of 14.4 points per game. She’s a superb on-ball defender, often drawing the opponent’s most difficult matchup. She’s considered an overall gifted athlete, able to take on whatever assignment her coach gives her.
Carda helped carry the Panthers to a 15-11 regular season record, playing one of the state’s most difficult schedules. Lakeville North is now positioned for a possible deep playoff run through Class 4A, Section 1.
Clemons said it’s easy to see why some have started tossing around Carda’s name in the same breath as, say, Panther alum and Gopher star Rachel Banham.
Clemons, a former Lakeville North point guard herself, understands the comparisons. She just doesn’t like talking about them — at least not publicly.
“It’s one of those things we’ve talked to [Carda] a lot about this year,” the coach said of the expectations put on the sophomore. “The type of player she is, that stuff is going to come with it. We definitely hold her to our own high expectations, and she’s a kid who feeds off that.
“[The attention] is deserved, though. Just look at what she’s done this year. She’s been a go-to player for us all year, and it’s made all the difference in our season.”
Carda grew up watching Lakeville North basketball. Her older brother graduated in 2006, her sister in 2009; both played basketball for the Panthers.
She remembers watching players like Banham move through the program, but her takeaway was never about skill, ability or accolades.
“For me, the biggest thing I’ve learned from my sister and watching Rachel and some other girls is just the hard work that it takes to play at this level,” Carda said. “You see that there’s a reason the team produces these top-notch players, and it’s the work level in practice and games.”
Clemons said Carda’s work ethic has helped her progress in three seasons from a raw, athletic eighth-grader to a true point guard. She trusts Carda’s instincts and basketball IQ in difficult situations. It’s a reason Carda nearly always has the ball in her hands down the stretch of close games.
“That’s something we were really missing last year, a true go-to player,” Clemons said. “And [Carda] has really filled that role this year for us.”
The Panthers won Section 1 a year ago and advanced to the Class 4A state semifinals. They eventually lost in the tournament’s third-place game but Carda, then a freshman, was named to the all-tournament team.
Carda and her teammates expect a similar run this year. With so many championship teams and college-level players coming before at Lakeville North, Carda said she’s certainly aware of how the past can weigh on the present.
“It puts a weight on my shoulders — but not a bad weight — because it gives me confidence to know that my teammates and coaches trust me to be that type of player,” she said. “All that matters is that we win. Whatever player I need to be to help us do that, that’s what I’ll be.”