Most afternoons, Aaliyah Patty can be found in the gym with her older brother, A.J., working to improve a basketball skill set that will soon be tested in the college game.
Some days, Patty, an Ohio State women’s basketball signee and soon-to-be Montini Catholic (Illinois) graduate and C.J. — who had stops at Vincennes University in Indiana, Murray State and Minnesota State — will focus on dribbling. Other days, it’s screens and post moves.
“It just changes,” Patty said. “We’ll work on shooting some days, so it’s just a variety of things I have to work on before I go to the next level.”
It’s preparation the 6-foot-3 post player has had to pack into a tight window. Montini Catholic’s season ended in the Illinois Class 4A state finals on March 3 and Patty graduates May 20 before heading to Ohio State June 3.
She nears the transition to college wanting to learn and grow but also confident that she’s made strides beyond the basic definition of a high school post player.
“I knew that coming into junior year (of high school) I was getting more and more looks and that once I got to college, I would need more than just my post play, so I got in the gym and started working on my shot,” Patty said. “My high school coach (Jason Nichols) he helped me a lot with that, footwork and release and form and all that. And I started working on a variety of things like off the dribble, shot fakes and I just kept evolving my game.
“It helped my game a lot because I was able to do a lot more than just post moves on the ball.”
Patty averaged 15.9 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.4 assists a senior, leading Montini to a 34-win season and the state title game. Her team fell 28-26 to Geneva to miss out on state championship, but Patty went 5 for 7 from the floor with 12 points and 12 rebounds. She was recently named to the Chicago Tribune’s girls basketball all-state first team.
“It was my senior year, so winning a state title was something I wanted to do really bad and we always had talks about how bad we wanted it,” Patty said. “Things don’t work out all the time but we came very far. I don’t think people were expecting us to go that far losing a lot of key players from last year, but I think we worked as a team and we did what we had to do.”
Patty kept up with Ohio State’s 2017-18 season and kept in regular touch with the coaching staff. She also heads into college having had plenty of contact with the rest of her incoming freshman class, Rhode Island guard Janai Crooms — who took a visit to Ohio State the same weekend as Patty — and Hungarian forward Dorka Juhasz.
“I was always on (Crooms) because I committed before she did. I was always questioning her, like, ‘When are you committing? Where are you going?’ And she wouldn’t tell me, so it was very nice to hear she was coming to Ohio State,” Patty said. “Dorka, we talked before she committed and she asked me why I was going there, so we had a relationship before she even committed.”
In less than two months, she’ll trade her current gym for Ohio State’s women’s basketball practice gym at Value City Arena.
“I have a lot of goals that I want to achieve and I just have to work at it and work harder,” Patty said. “The next level is something that’s very exciting.”