Academic all-stars

Published 10:31 am Saturday, March 6, 2010

Four years ago I was asked by my local, boyhood friend, Burdette Gatten, if I would help him coach basketball to a group of young women at Southampton Academy.

The nucleus of that initial team, Forest Best, Gabby Gatten, Allison Pulley and Lindsay Raulston, are now seniors, and they, along with senior transfer student Michelle Lewis, junior standout Catherine Glover and the rest of the Lady Raiders, have set statistical records that will serve as a benchmark for aspiring young women to surpass.

Among their accomplishments on the hardwood the past two years are: more than 40 overall wins, a 37-3 record in district competition, two district tournament championships and an outright district championship last season.

Two of the players, Gatten and Raulston, achieved the rare feat of becoming the first 1,000 point female scorers in the academy’s history. The young women both accomplished this as juniors.

While the athletic achievements of these teams will be displayed within the school trophy case for Academy students to admire, the more important, lasting achievement for the senior starters on this season’s squad is one that too often fails to make headlines within our sports-crazed society — academic excellence.

The starting senior five of Best, Gatten, Lewis, Pulley and Raulston have grade point averages of 3.6 or better. Four of these same young women are ranked first, second, third and sixth in their senior class; three have 4.0 (A) averages, and the fourth, Lindsay Raulston, has a perfect 4.3 (A+) GPA.

Given their academic firepower, it is not surprising that this team of academic achievers was able to effectively grasp up to five different offensive sets in one season. Most high schools and many college basketball programs limit their number of offenses to just two because of their complexity.

A parent of an opposing player whose team had just been soundly beaten this season by our girls said it best with his comments to both coach Gatten and to Headmaster Mercer Neale.

His observation went something like this, “Your girls help others up off the floor; they are not rough inside throwing elbows; they play hard, but play with dignity. This expression of your school athletics is a valuable representation of the values your school holds so dear.”

I cannot say enough positives about this quality group of young women and this year’s Academy girls varsity team as a whole. They were respectful of their coaches, represented themselves well at all times, and won and lost with grace.

I know that their parents, teachers and school officials are extremely proud of them. This combination of athletic achievement and academic excellence is all too rare a commodity within our school programs but is now on record with this group of senior starters for future young women to target.