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All a coach wants out of the players they coach is for them to buy into the system and trust in what's happening.
For the Starkville Academy Volunteers, there are 11 seniors that will be recognized tonight prior to the tipoffs of their respective games against Heritage Academy that have done exactly that.
Starkville Academy girls basketball coach and athletic director Glenn Schmidt appreciates the dedication and commitment not only of the Lady Vols, but the Vols also.
Being honored for SA boys are Zachary Gerhart, Jon Michael Robinson, Kyle Lomam, Austin Kinard, Zack Thomas and Calvin Young, who suffered a season-ending injury to his knee.
The senior Lady Vols are Anna Prestridge, Brittany Jacks, Julianne Jackson, April Burney and Lauren Atwell.
"Having five seniors this year means a whole lot," Schmidt said. "This group has come a long way since their junior year and some of them since their sophomore year. They are all unique in their special way. They don't all start, but they all mean something special to us.
"They seem to be a unified group of seniors that provide leadership for us and direction."
Jacks, Atwell and Jackson come off the bench to make their contributions for Starkville Academy and Schmidt said that doesn't go unnoticed.
"Having seniors to put in means a whole lot," Schmidt said. "There's a lesson there that all sophomores, freshmen and younger kids need to learn. If you pay your dues and put your time in and are loyal to the program, it pays off for you and you are able to play your senior year.
"Brittany Jacks adds quickness to us. She can score a little bit and handle the ball. Lauren Atwell has become a good shooter and had a big basket at PCS toward the end of the game and solidified that win. Julianne Jackson has come so far. When you don't play organized junior high basketball, you are at a competitive disadvantage, but she transfered in the 10th grade and has done everything in her power to make that up.
"It's hard to sit on the bench, but to be a senior, not start and maintain an attitude that's worthy of recognition and go into the game, it takes a big woman to do that. It takes a person who loves their school and their team."
Burney and Jackson have gained the trust of coaches of teammates and coaches so much that they are two of the three captains along with Prestridge.
Jackson is proud of what the Lady Vols have accomplished this season.
"This is one of the best years I've ever had," Jackson said. "Last year, we had a good year, but there were only eight of us and it took a little time to get to know each other. This year, with the addition of some of the younger girls and the five seniors we have now, we have definitely grown and become a wonderful group. Coach Schmidt and Coach (Kayla) Mosley have done a wonderful job. I've just been blessed and proud to be a part of it."
As Starkville Academy heads down the stretch of the season, it will be a bitter-sweat emotion for Burney.
"I'm happy but sad at the same time," Burney said. "I've been playing since the 4th grade. I'm happy because this is a good team and we can go far."
Burney and Prestridge both emphasized the importance of going undefeated on the home court. So far, it's been 11 up and 11 down for the Lady Vols with only Heritage standing in the way of a clean sweep.
"We want to come out with our last game as a win," Prestridge said. "It seems like I've been here forever. The girls mean so much and I've had a really great experience."
Prestridge transfered to SA from Parklane Academy and was inserted into the point guard position as a sophomore in the summer league immediately by Schmidt.
It was a position that Prestridge adapted to quickly and has continued to develop.
"She came in and got into the driver's seat right away," Schmidt said. "She came into a new system, had to start at the point and took her beatings from me early. She has developed into the best point guard in our league. I feel a lot of people believe that way."
Prestridge averages five assists per game and less than two turnovers so she takes care of the basketball.
Schmidt said Prestridge accepts her role for the Lady Vols and has never complained.
"Everybody wants recognition, everybody wants to score and wants their name in the paper and she sacrifices that part of her game to play point," Schmidt said. "She can score and does a great job on the free-throw line."
SA boys coach Mark Alexander is proud of the seniors who have made his first season a fun experience.
Despite having three coaches in three years and facing adversity this season, the Vols continued to put forth a good effort for Alexander and have had seven wins so far.
"This year, we haven't enjoyed nearly as much success as we had hoped, had our ups and downs and our bad games for sure, but one of the things I've respected about this group is they've been good, respective to me, continue to play hard and do the things we asked them to do," Alexander said. "It's pleasing as a coach to see a group do that. It's easy for them to give up and stop fighting with all the games we've lost, but especially the last four gmaes, we could have easily won. If you look at it, we've been competitive in a lot of games whether it's been a half or three quarters."
The SA boys had an up-tempo style last season and that's the way Alexander likes to play as well.
After losing Young and Brandon Sharp, Alexander had to adjust the way the Vols played offense.
"With our personnel and the way things unfolded, the thing that gives us the best chance of winning was slowing it down, being patient on the offensive end and keeping it a low-scoring game," Alexander said. "I was able to sell them on the fact that's what was going to keep us in games. We were able to do that and they continued to play hard."View more articles in: