There is a 44-second video floating around on Twitter of Shayla Sweeney that speaks volumes.

The video, tweeted out, by Books and Basketball Academy, shows the Pennsauken senior in mid-workout.

The gym is empty except for Sweeney, her trainer and one other player under the basket to snag rebounds.

Sweeney was working on catch-and-shoot drills from beyond the three-point line. And she wasn't missing. The video cuts to her working on her mid-range game. And then her footwork.

There was obvious precision to her movements and form. And, even more, there was a sense of determination.

Before her junior season, there was a point when Sweeney seemed to emerge out of nowhere among college scouts.

"About my junior year," she said, "people started to say, 'Where has she been?' "

The answer: "That's about the time when I would be in the gym every day for hours working on my game. That's what it takes."

Sweeney is a 5-foot-11 combo guard about to embark on her senior season for the Pennsauken girls' basketball team as one of South Jersey's most athletic and polished players.

Shayla Sweeney is a senior at Pennsauken.
GENEVA HEFFERNAN
Shayla Sweeney is a senior at Pennsauken.

On Nov. 8, she sat at a table in Pennsauken High School, surrounded by family and coaches, and signed her letter of intent to play for La Salle.
It capped a remarkable rise for a player who came to basketball late. She's a self-described "late-bloomer" who never played on a travel team until ninth grade.

La Salle was the first school to offer her a scholarship.

"It felt great to know that everything I worked for paid off," Sweeney said. "It was exciting. And it was unbelievable. That's definitely a word I would use to describe it."

Her work ethic and love for the game — as much as her talent — are what she's hoping to bring to Pennsauken this season.

Sweeney isn't just the only Division I recruit on her team, she's the only senior.

Her status on the team is almost as much coach as player. It's a role she embraces.

"I want to show my teammates how they can get better, and I want them to know that if they actually want it, they can do it if they put their mind to it,"

Sweeney said. "I'm actually really hard on them in practice. But they don't take offense to it. They know I just want us to work hard and get better."

That leadership role, Sweeney said, still feels new to her sometimes. But it's just another skill she's proved adept at developing quickly.

"Sometimes I'll forget that I'm the only senior. I might be off to the side on my own," Sweeney said. "But then I catch myself and remind myself that I have to be more engaged. I know my teammates look up to me. So I want to be that leader."

Pennsauken coach Ashley Barker said Sweeney's attitude has been invaluable to her young team.

And Barker is just as impressed with Sweeney's personal development. She went from averaging 5.7 points per game as a freshman to 17.6 points per game last season, a season in which she netted her 1,000th career point.

"I'm extremely proud of Shayla," Barker said. "She's an extremely hard worker, and she puts in so much time not only for our team but outside of

Pennsauken High School basketball. She's just always working on her game, always working to get better.

"And the fact that she's also bettering the other players on the team is just awesome to see as a coach."

And that, Sweeney said, more than anything is what she is focused on this year. When asked about her goals, she didn't mention milestones or records. She talked about the journey, about the path she wants to take. About taking small steps — hours in the gym every day — that lead to those bigger goals.

"I want to keep getting better," she said. "I want my team to keep getting better. That's my goal.

"And I'm very excited to get started. I can't wait."