ELIZABETHTOWN — The basketball talent on the floor for the Lady Eagles at almost any time is unmistakable. The talent in the classroom by the same student-athlete may not register with most fans, but for East Bladen, the “scholar” part is just as important to coach Patty Evers.
“I have had some pretty smart girls all along the way,” Evers said. “We stress academics first. We have actually had the No. 1 ranked graduating student on our team for four straight years. I am very proud of all of them. However, this group carries around an overall GPA of 3.7 (and) at least six of them have over a 4.0 GPA.”
Few teams can boast of the classroom success of the Lady Eagles do.
The four seniors lead the way, with Miller Heustess on the Superintendent’s List, Lacey Suggs on the “A” honor roll, Abby Ward on the “A” honor roll and Christiana Cromartie on the “A-B” honor roll.
Among the juniors on the roster, Lexie Mendell is on the Superintendent’s List and Emily Scott is on the Superintendent’s List.
Sophomore Shardajah Brown is on the “A-B’ honor roll, and the two freshmen have started their high-school careers as top students in the classroom — Ja’Tyra Moore-Peterson on the Principal’s List and Ashley Hardin on the “A” honor roll.
Six of the Lady Eagles are currently taking college courses. That kind of brainpower helps a coach in a lot of ways.
“Because they are a smart group, as well as athletic, it helps in game preparation,” Evers said. “They are very attentive in practice and in the locker room at the half. I think it carries over to the court in the way we run our defense and our press.
“I give them the homework in the practice plan and they execute,” she added. “It helps with trapping and knowing where to be even on the offensive side of the ball. They have to be pretty smart to pick up what the defense is giving them.”
Despite having talent on the court and in the classroom, Evers said the two don’t always go hand in hand. She said it can help to be smart because it has the element of discipline with it, but …
“Sometimes the basketball IQ is not there because they don’t watch enough of it to pick it up or play enough outside of the gym,” Evers explained. “This group had some work when they were young, playing church ball and recreation ball at an early age, which helped them pick some things up.”
If there is a third part to a successful basketball player and team, Evers said it would be having the right instincts.
“We have worked on talking about using their instinct to read passes and the person making the pass,” she said. “It all goes hand in hand.”
One of the things Evers likes seeing is teammates helping teammates — not only with basketball skills, but with classes.
“They spend a lot of time talking about their classes, more so than anything else I hear — which is a good thing,” she said.
The results have been clear for a number of years. The Lady Eagles not only have been one of the state’s top teams in girls basketball, often carrying a No. 1 ranking, but names from the East Bladen roster also regularly show up on the school’s honor rolls. That has made Evers’ job a little easier along the way.
“I believe that they are driven so much as students and athletes that the two go hand in hand,” she said. “They have high goals not only in sports. The sports will help them later in life by being leaders in jobs and parenting. We try to teach those life lessons everyday. They will all be successful one day and I hope I’m around to see the great things they will accomplish.”
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.