When she was still in kindergarten, Marissa Janning remembers accompanying older brother Matt from their rural Watertown home to his AAU basketball practices in Minneapolis.
"I was bored, so I would pick up one of the loose balls laying around and dribble it up and down," she said.
As it turned out, those seemingly innocuous trips were the seeds of big things to come.
The senior from Watertown-Mayer is the Star Tribune's 2012 Metro Player of the Year in girls' basketball, a sharp-shooting guard who plays with a swagger honed on numerous inner-city courts across Minneapolis and St. Paul.
A quick glance at the numbers and Janning's worthiness becomes obvious:
• 3,587 career points, fourth all-time among Minnesota girls.
• A 30.1 points-per-game average this year.
• A state-record 458 career three-pointers.
• 725 career assists and 601 career steals.
"It's been incredible," Janning said. "I never expected [to have] that kind of success."
Others, however, might say differently.
"Rissy has always been a great athlete," said her father, Jeff, referring to his daughter by the nickname used by her family and closest friends. "She did volleyball, track, wrestling, softball. She even played football in fifth grade. She was pretty good, too."
It wasn't long before Janning's dribbling sojourns turned heads. Soon the country girl was sharing court time with players of urban renown, including former Minneapolis South standout Tayler Hill.
"I didn't get much playing time then, because they were a lot older than me," Janning said. "But when I got in, I was going 100 miles per hour."
That aggressive style became her trademark. She eschewed her local traveling basketball teams, preferring city-based programs like Hill's N.C. Heat and the Minnesota Lady Monarchs before eventually landing with the metro's most visible girls' program, North Tartan.
Even though she sought out better competition during the offseason, Watertown -- west of the Lake Minnetonka area in Carver County -- was her home. As word spread of her basketball prowess, some high school programs wondered if she'd consider transferring.
They needn't have wasted their time, Janning said.
"This is my home," she said. "I never thought about going to a different school."
As her skills and reputation grew, Janning gained national exposure in elite AAU summer tournaments. Yet donning Royals blue was never far from her mind.
"There's a lot more than basketball for me here," she said. "My brother played here, and he's my biggest role model. And I wanted to play with my friends and for my school."
Buoyed by Janning's devastatingly quick lefthanded jumper and innate ability to create her own shot, Watertown-Mayer generated a buzz on the Twin Cities' southwestern fringes.
But not enough team success for her liking. The Royals qualified for the state tournament once, in 2010, in Janning's six varsity seasons. In each of the past two seasons, they lost to Providence Academy in the section playoffs.
"That is one regret," Janning said. "I wish we could have beaten Providence just once."
Next up is Creighton University in Omaha, where a full basketball scholarship awaits. She is expected to challenge for the starting point guard role as a freshman.
"It's amazing how fast this time has gone by," she said. "It's sad, but I'm ready to start the next chapter of my life. I'm excited about that."