Aniya Carter inspires Greenville High School basketball players, coaches, fans

Published 7:11 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Greenville High School 10th-grader Aniya Carter is an honorary member of the Lady Tigers basketball team. She suffers from cerebral palsy, but that doesn’t hold her back from playing several sports and serving as an inspiration to coaches, fans, and fellow players.

Carter’s basketball coach and cousin, SaRhonda Cheatham, said Carter loves all sports and has played football with the YMCA, cheered and played volleyball at Greenville Middle School, and continues playing volleyball and basketball in high school.

“She just loves sports,” Cheatham said. “She comes to practice and shoots with us also.”

On Jan. 7, Carter put the Lady Tigers on the board, scoring the first points during a game against the Andalusia Lady Bulldogs, a moment that went viral via video on the Butler County Sports Network’s Facebook page. The video featuring Carter also aired on WSFA-12.

“An honorary player is someone who can’t physically come out to play,” Cheatham said. “We made her part of our team. I talk with the other coaches and if they are okay with her shooting to begin the game or at the beginning of every quarter, we allow her to do that.”

Carter was born prematurely at 25 weeks, weighing just 1 pound and 7 ounces. Carter’s mom, Lendice Williams, said the family had concerns about letting her play sports at first, but eventually consented when they realized how much she enjoyed athletics.

“Seeing her getting out there and doing stuff, seeing the other kids not looking at her as having a disability and helping her out inspired us to let her play,” Williams said.

Williams added Carter enjoys meeting new people.

“Aniya doesn’t meet any strangers,” Williams said. “She’s a character. She’s a sweet child.”

According to Cheatham, Carter’s “can do” attitude inspires team members to work harder to accomplish their goals.

“Her determination shows them that no matter what life throws at you and no matter what obstacles you’re faced with, you can do anything with willpower and determination,” Cheatham said. “I tell the girls all the time that Aniya’s story, her perseverance through everything should push them through adversity because sometimes in basketball (and other) sports you get down. And, if you get down, and you’re losing, you go down mentally.

“I tell them to allow her story to push them. No matter what you’re up against, if you have willpower and determination, you can fight for anything and you can overcome those obstacles.”

Carter’s story inspires Cheatham and the team to remember the purpose of sports and what they bring to area families.

“We get so busy,” Cheatham said. “Sometimes you have to slow the game down to truly see what the meaning is. Even in life, you have to slow down to appreciate the gifts God has given us. The girls play because they have the physical ability to do it. But when we look at Aniya, we slow down and appreciate what God has blessed us with. So the community is slowing down, and I’m slowing down to appreciate Aniya and know that you can bounce back, regardless of the challenge.”