In addition to her basketball skills, there was one other thing that Lin Smithson picked up on when she first saw Tabby Koerner play at Harris Road Middle School.
Smithson, now the Jay M. Robinson girls' basketball coach, was especially impressed with Koerner's ability and willingness to jump, a novelty for a female middle school athlete, according to Smithson.
Koerner has been distinguishing herself as a basketball player ever since. The recent Gardner-Webb signee is one of the main reasons the Bulldogs were ranked in The Observer's pre-season Sweet 16 poll.
A senior, Koerner is coming off a 2008-09 season in which she averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds and was named all-conference.
Always tall for her age, Koerner, now 6-foot-1, says she has played basketball ever since she can remember. She played in recreational leagues in Virginia before moving to Concord as a fifth-grader.
Smithson was not coaching at the high school level when she first met Koerner, but the impressionable middle schooler thought it was cool that her new AAU coach had once coached at Northwest Cabarrus High.
Koerner was playing for the upstart Cabarrus Stars program and Smithson remembers her for her tall, thin frame and being one of the team's leading scorers.
Koerner played on the Stars for Smithson for two years, before arriving at Robinson where Smithson had recently been named head coach. Koerner made another good impression on her new high school coach during summer camp games.
"She was probably close to six feet tall," said Smithson. "She's just phenomenally athletic. She had a really good game and one of the refs came over and said 'I don't know why you'd ever want to take that girl off the court.' And now I don't want to take her off the court."
Her first year of varsity ball was an eye opener for Koerner. Opposing players were bigger, faster and more talented, especially those in the ME-CA 7 4A, Robinson's conference.
"I had to learn to calm down," said Koerner. "I always tried to rush things. It might have been me just wanting to do stuff. As you play, and get used to teammates, you gain that trust with each other. I started to relax and was learning the plays more and becoming more confident. I just grew up."
A part-time starter as a freshman, Koerner became a mainstay in the starting five as a sophomore. She averaged two blocks a game as the Bulldogs enjoyed a fine season, reaching the third round of the state playoffs.
Koerner spent the off-season working out in a weight training program specifically designed for female athletes by Robinson athletic trainer Brian Long. The program helped her build strength, and Koerner became a more physical player her junior season.
"It made such a huge difference," said Smithson. "She went from a gangly little girl, she's now intimidating. You look at her and think, 'I wouldn't want to tangle with her.' She's mentally more confident."
A highlight of Koerner's 2008-09 season was Robinson winning the Cabarrus County Christmas tournament and being named the event's Most Valuable Player.
The daughter of Loren and Brenda Koerner, both who played basketball at Virginia's Davis and Elkins College, Koerner spent many a day on the backyard basketball court taking a few tips from dad.
"Her footwork has gotten a whole lot better," says Smithson. "Her defense is picking up. In college she'll have to play power forward. She has a great outside shot. She can handle the ball but her strength for us has been under the basket."
Getting offered a college scholarship was a "big deal" says Koerner. And whether it's in high school or in college, Koerner's coaches know they'll get everything she has to offer.