Waiting for his team to take the floor on a humid July afternoon at Danville High, Austin girls basketball coach Bruce Hamilton raised two key points about his team.
The first: Young and inexperienced players would be in the starting lineup.
And the second: His veteran starters have quiet personalities.
Now seven months later, those concerns no longer exist. By developing young talent and nurturing personalities, Hamilton has once again molded a team that has won more than 20 games.
And now the Black Bears have an opportunity do something that hasn’t been done in 12 years: Win an area title.
Top-seeded Austin hosts James Clemens tonight at 6 in the Class 6A, Area 16 final.
“Am I surprised that we’re in this position? Not really,” Hamilton said. “But back in the offseason, I wasn’t sure how well we would gel because of the gaps in age groups on our team. I knew we had talent and ability, but there were some uncertainties.”
Austin’s last area title was in 2001, when the Black Bears beat Brewer 41-37 in an area title game.
The fact that it’s been so long since Austin’s last area title isn’t lost on the players.
“It’s been while since we won one,” senior Meagan Hamilton said while watching Austin’s boys basketball team play Friday in Area 16 semifinals. “Hopefully we can change that.”
Meagan Hamilton and fellow senior starter Takisha Jordan are major reasons why Austin (21-7) is in this position. Even though they are usually quiet and reserved away from the court, Bruce Hamilton said they have developed leadership qualities that helped mold a young roster into a postseason team.
Austin has two freshmen and a sophomore in its starting lineup.
“Meagan and Takisha, both of them are still pretty quiet around me,” Bruce Hamilton said with a laugh. “But evidently they’re completely different people when I’m out of the room because they’ve done a nice job with helping bring our young players along.”
Jordan leads Austin in scoring, averaging more than 12 points per game. The 5-foot-7 guard is expected to sign with a four-year college program following the season.
Meagan Hamilton, a sharpshooting guard who has an opportunity to play at Birmingham Southern, isn’t far off pace, averaging more than seven points per game.
But with Austin, that’s only half the story.
With a talented group coming out of Cedar Ridge and Brookhaven middle schools, Austin was expected to have a bright future ahead.
Turns out, the bright future already is underway.
Katie Speegle, a 6-0 freshman center, has developed into a strong post player, while freshman guard Tyra Johnson is emerging as one of the area’s brightest young stars.
Combine those budding stars with Aaliyah Rice, an energetic and athletic forward, along with two talented seniors, and Hamilton has found the perfect mix.
A group that’s on the verge of ending a long area championship drought.
“Oh, the players are very aware that we haven’t won one in a long time,” Bruce Hamilton said. “It’s something that we’ve spent time talking about, and they’re excited about the opportunity.”
Contact Justin Graves at 256-340-2460 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.