There are times during games when Isabella Runyan will take a deep breath and remind herself not to get frustrated.
She remembers when she was younger, even into her freshman year, how a bad play or quarter might set her off.
“My dad always tells me to keep my cool,” she said of her father, Jon Runyan, the former Pro Bowl left tackle for the Eagles. “People are looking up to me, and when you lose your cool everyone is going to lose their cool. So you have to set an example.”
Last season, Runyan was the younger third of a dynamic trio for the Moorestown Friends girl’s basketball team that included her sister, Alyssa, and Charlotte Stern.
With Alyssa and Stern graduated, it’s crazy, Isabella Runyan said, how quickly things change.
Suddenly, the Foxes are her team.
“It was a lot of pressure coming into the beginning of the season. But I knew that this is my time. This is what I looked forward too,” said Runyan, a 6-foot junior point guard. “I have a great group of younger players to lead. So it feels different, but it’s just about adjusting to it, and I think me and the team are doing really well.”
So far this season, Runyan’s stats have popped off box scores, just as they always have. She is averaging 22.3 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 steals, 4.3 assists, and 2 blocks for the Foxes, who started out 3-0.
But on the court, those stats tend to blend in with the flow of the game.
What really stands out is her poise, her determination to take over defensively and push the tempo and the way she directs traffic and encourages her young teammates.
It’s a concerted effort to embrace her new role, a sign that she’s more than willing to be what this year’s Foxes need her to be.
“She really has taken the younger kids under her wing, not just with her play, but she really cares,” said coach Mike Brunswick. “She’s not just fluff. She’s genuine, and her teammates respect that.”
Moorestown Friends features one of the youngest teams in South Jersey. The Foxes’ second-leading scorer is freshman shooting guard Veyoni Davis, who is off to a hot start, averaging 21 points per game.
As someone who knows what it’s like to burst onto the high school sports scene, Runyan—who averaged 11.8 points and 4.8 steals as a freshman—has proved to be a fitting role model.
And she embraces it. She said she looked up to last year’s senior class. She cherishes how close the players were. She misses that class, and sometimes, she conceded, it still feels weird not to be able to turn to her sister or Stern during games.
But she wants to be to this team what those players were to last season’s team.
“I try to set a good example for them as a player and a person,” Runyan said.
Runyan said she is still largely fueled by her love of the game.
She said she still gets jitters on game days.
And beyond X’s and O’s, she’ll talk with her teammates, particularly Davis, about rising above those mental hurdles, about keeping your poise when your team needs you.
“I try to keep it real with them, especially Veyoni,” Runyan said. “I’m not going to just be like, ‘We’re the best team in South Jersey,’ because we’re not. I just say that we have to hustle, and that’s how we win games.
“When we out-hustle teams, we can beat them. And that’s the kind of role model I want to be.”