DECATUR — They've known each other for years and have long discussed their desire to team up together at MacArthur and take the Generals to new heights.
That time is now for freshmen Taya Davis and Quincenia Jackson.
They went to rival middle schools, Davis at Garfield, Jackson at Hope, where Jackson led the team to an IESA second place finish in Class 2A in 2016.
The pair played AAU together, played in all-star games together and dreamed about the day they would play on the same team full time.
“They’ve always got along off the court. They went hard at each other," first-year MacArthur coach Michael "Coach Dubb" Williams said. "They’re two good competitors and good players. They have respect for each other. That respect allows them to want to play together. They want to play together for four years."
MacArthur is off to an 8-3 start behind the play of the two freshmen, along with juniors Jayda Dees, Mariah Shores and Kyyawna Johnson, and senior Courtnee Riley.
The Generals are already flying past last season's 6-23 mark ahead of the Eisenhower Holiday Tournament, which begins Wednesday.
Davis is a do-it-all point guard, averaging 8.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.9 steals.
“They trust her a lot. They want her on the court. That’s the good thing," Williams said.
Getting acclimated to the speed of the varsity game was a cinch, but it was a drastic change for Davis to have pieces around her who can carry the burden of scoring.
“At Garfield there wasn’t really anybody else out there to help me," Davis said. "At MacArthur I have a lot of people on my team who I know can score."
Williams has challenged her to turn from a scorer into a pass-first guard, and in the previous few games, she's obliged.
“The way she passes the ball and how she takes control of the court," Jackson said of what makes Davis special.
“She handles the ball like she has it on a string," Williams said. "She creates equal opportunities for everybody else. As of late, she’s been playing very unselfish."
Dees has been a primary find for Davis. The junior is averaging a team-high 13.7 points and 4.3 steals.
It all could have imploded after a loss to Springfield Lanphier (9-2) on. Dec. 16. It was a two-point loss that MacArthur let slip away, a key conference game.
But the loss had the opposite effect. It banded the team together.
"The Lanphier game is when we completely came together, even though we lost, we played together as a team," Jackson said.
By the next game, the Generals had taken the lessons they needed to from the loss and came out firing.
“We had the ball and we didn’t execute at the offensive end," Williams said. "That game hurt. They came back to practice Monday and we took care of business and beat a good Rochester team."
Jackson has been a force coming off the bench for the Generals, averaging 6.7 points and 3.3 rebounds. The 6-foot-1 freshman comes in to give Shores, the starter with pristine footwork, a break.
That role is just fine for her.
"It’s great playing off the bench early," Jackson said. "Especially with them. It’s good."
Then there's Johnson, who offers veteran advice to the freshmen and has been dubbed the MVP of the team by Williams.
When the players needs a reminder to hustle, or a spark to ignite the flame, Johnson is there.
Williams never gives her a rest — she plays point guard and shooting guard.
“She leads by example, she works hard every day, she talks to them, calms them down and has a good positive attitude," Williams said.
The lessons have quickly paid off.
“I learned from her that if you just hustle that you’ll get a better outcome than what you expect," Jackson said.
“She told me to hustle more and get more action on both sides," Davis added.
A summer full of running and lifting has the Generals in shape to continue their winning ways.
Everyone is happy, and things can be summed up succinctly.
"It's been very good," Davis said.