It's easy to pay lip service when talking about hustling.
It's another to be able to show the bumps and bruises that prove it.
Hoosac Valley junior Fallon Field sports the bumps and bruises every time she hits the court. Countless numbers of dings and scratches dot her arms and legs, battle wounds from another season going by.
But it's those bumps and bruises that make Field who she is. They speak to her toughness, her willingness to hit the deck in search of a bouncing ball.
"I don't know, it's definitely a weird day if I don't have a bruise somewhere," Field said after practice on Monday. "We all make fun of me for it sometimes. I don't know how I get them, but they are everywhere."
The truth is, Field does know how she gets them. She gets them because she plays tough, almost as if there is a permanent chip placed directly on her shoulder.
And it's why the Hurricanes are once again playing in the MIAA state tournament, this time in a semifinal game against Central Mass. champion Littleton today at 2:15 p.m. at the DCU Center in Worcester.
Field is many things to Hoosac Valley. She leads the team in scoring (14 points per game during the regular season), but she is also a steal machine on the back end of Hoosac's press. She can drive to the hole and look for her own shot, or she can kick on the drive and feed an open teammate for a 3-pointer. She has the size of a guard, but is best described as the power forward on an undersized Hoosac team. She can get out in transition, but she can also bang down low and grab a rebound she has no business getting.
Whatever she is, Field describes herself as a hustler.
"I like the competitiveness of basketball," Field said. "I come from a very competitive family. I like when games get tough, I like when there's a lot of contact in a game.
"I like when it gets intense, teams get fired up and we all get excited."
Field's feistiness rubs off on her teammates, as well.
"It's really nice to know we can really count on her," senior Madi Ryan said after Hoosac won the Western Mass. championship against Drury. "She always gets those sneaky steals at random times. They are really energy boosters. She's a good teammate to have."
Field has always been a baller. Since starting out in the second grade, Field says she has always had a passion for basketball. When she was growing up, Field admits she didn't watch a ton of Hoosac Valley girls basketball games. When she got to middle school, though, that started to change.
"I was always so excited to see them play and to play with them on the court," Field said, "with all those people in the gym."
And, now that she's on the court and is the one being looked up to?
"It's crazy, actually," Field said. "It's totally different from watching it happen to being a part of it.
"My team is amazing, and we all love each other. It makes it more fun to go through it with kids you'll remember forever."
That sense of humility also plays into the bigger profile of Field. She might be leading the team in scoring, and she might have two 20+ point games during the team's three-game Western Mass. run. But to her, the points only matter if they add up to a win.
"It's nice to get some credit after the game," Field said, "but I think no matter who it is [scoring] I'd be happy. If it was someone else doing it, I'd be just as happy — as long as we are winning and doing it as a team."
It's an attitude that head coach Ron Wojcik loves to see. He, too, has seen the many different types of Fallon Field. To Wojcik, his diminutive four has it all.
"A lot of things," Wojcik said of what stands out about Field's game. "Certainly her athletic ability, her knowledge of the game.
"I think, to do some of the things she does offensively and defensively, you have to understand the game of basketball."
Her knowledge is what allows Field to slot into the back of Hoosac's pressure defenses. While Field plays as a guard on her AAU team and her height doesn't match the typical power forward, Wojcik likes Field's upbringing as a guard in terms of matching his philosophy.
"She'd technically be our four, but my four does a lot of ballhandling," Wojcik said. "They take the ball out of bounds, they are almost the second guard coming up the court with the [point guard], but they also play in the back of the press, they are rebounding back there. I look for my fours to be well-rounded players, and she fits that mold."
Wojcik also describes her as one of the best poachers on his press defense. High praise for a girl that just started playing as a forward in the press scheme this season.
In the playoffs, Field has been everywhere for Hoosac.
Field put up 24 points in the Western Mass. title game against Drury, but she also added nine rebounds and had four steals. With the score tied at 27-all, it was Field's defense that led to a steal, and the eventual finish, that put Hoosac up for keeps.
In the semifinals against Hampshire, Field was held to just 15 points, but she kicked in with six assists on offense, and had another four-steal game. In the quarterfinals against Granby? 23 points, 15 rebounds, five steals.
"She's not afraid of anything," Wojcik said. "That's the mental aspect of the game you can't really teach. I think that's kind of bred in kids."
The best part? She has another year to grow. Another year to develop her robust offensive game, and another year to home in on the intricacies of the Hoosac Valley defense.
Wojcik has seen the improvement year over year, and has seen her confidence grow with it.
"Kids toughness comes with confidence, and part of that confidence is your skill development on your own as a player," Wojcik said. "If you put the time in over the summer and work on your skills .. your confidence goes up, and your toughness increases, too."
For Field, that means a couple of more bruises, as well.
Contact Geoff Smith at 413-496-6254.