Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 27, 2004
Georgiana High School senior LaTrece Whatley is no stranger to hard work.
The 5nfootn6 point guard acted as the Lady Panthers' workhorse all season and helped lead her team to a 16n6 record, a Class 2A, Area 2 runnernup finish and an appearance in the subnregional tournament.
For her performance on the hard court, Whatley has been selected as Greenville Newspapers inaugural girls basketball Player of the Year and also heads up the Fab Five, which consists of the Top 5 girl players in the trincounty.
"It feels good," Whatley said. "It's kind of shocking, but it feels real good. To know out of all the people that were playing ball that I was chosen, feels good."
Whatley, 18, finished her last season as a Lady Panther with 324 points for an average of 18 points per game, 144 rebounds for an average of eight boards per game and 99 steals for an average of 5.5 steals per game. She said listening to her coach was key to her success this year.
"I basically learned all the fundamentals and stuck to them," Whatley said. "When you've got a good coach that takes his time out to help better you and you listen to him, I think that's what helped me succeed."
GHS Head Basketball Coach John Cheatham believes Whatley is worthy of the recognition.
"She's a real athlete," Cheatham said. "She definitely worthy of the honor. She's a hard worker and she's dedicated to the sports. She comes to practice everyday and works hard trying to improve her skills. I don't have any problems with her and she's a team player."
Southern Choctaw edged the Lady Panthers 42n36 in subnregional tournament. Whatley believes Georgiana was capable of going a lot deeper into the playoffs.
"We didn't do as good as we could have done, but we did alright," Whatley said. "I felt we could have went all the way and won it all."
Whatley said she plans on playing for Lurleen B. Wallace Community College next season unless a better offer from another college is put on the table. She said she'd miss playing for Georgiana and with her teammates.
"I'm going to miss playing with all the girls because we had a lot of fun, but we still got the job done," she said. "I'm going to miss all the laughing and being around people you know."
Cheatham believes Whatley has a bright future on the hard court.
"I think she can play basketball for most any team," he said.
Joining Whatley on the elite basketball team are Fort Dale Academy junior guard Laura Skipper, Greenville High School senior guard Jessica Powell, Highland Home High School junior guard Ladrekas Arrington and Lowndes Academy eighth grader Michele Sims.
Skipper finished the season with 401 points (14.3 avg.), 159 rebounds (5.6 avg.) and 67 assists (2.4 avg.) and helped lead the Lady Eagles to its first Alabama Independent School Association Class AAA state title since 1999.
Powell ended her high school career with 336 points (14.0 avg.) and 72 steals (4.0 avg.). She helped lead the Lady Tigers (12n12) to a runnernup finish in the Class 5A, Area 3 Tournament. GHS bowed out of the playoffs after a 10npoint loss to Eufaula in subnregionals, 59n49.
Arrington helped lead the Lady Squadron to a 22n5 record on the season. She finished the year with 470 points (17.4 avg.), 162 rebounds (6 avg.), 108 assists (4 assists) and 176 steals (6.5 avg.)
Sims finished the year with an average of 15 points and 11.5 rebounds per game to lead Lowndes Academy.