By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
PRINCETON — The history of Mercer Christian Academy basketball was not the prime motivation for Jamie Brown to transfer this year to the prep school on the edge of Princeton.
Then again, it didn’t hurt.
The point guard for the Lady Cavaliers said late last week that she was comfortable with her new environment.
“We’re all like family,” she said. “The student body is small enough that everybody knows everybody, and they all get along. There’s no drama like at a public school.”
“Everything’s based on God,” she said. “I like being part of a Christian atmosphere.”
When the question turned to the rebuilding girls basketball program at MCA, she paused to glance briefly at the big photos in the school gym of state champion teams of the past.
The MCA girls won seven West Virginia Class A titles under the West Virginia Secondary School Activities Commission (SSAC) umbrella from 1993 to 2002. The school dropped out of the circuit when they reinstituted basketball a little more than a year ago.
“Being part of something great, like it used to be, is something I’d love to be a part of,” she said. “The program’s got to be built. It’s got to have a foundation built on God.”
The team is off to a nice start, having won both games in its invitational tournament at the gym last weekend.
In Friday’s game, Brown hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to force a second overtime period with Seneca Trail Christian, then drove for a layup to give her team its final lead in a 57-55 victory. She ended with 29 points.
In the championship outing, a 38-25 win over Seneca Trail, Brown’s statistics were outstanding — 22 points, seven steals, six rebounds and five assists.
Granted, West Virginia Christian schools that do not operate within the West Virginia SSAC often play a brand of basketball that is not the same caliber as that played by other state schools. But Brown’s skill and desire cannot be dismissed.
Her new coach, Sheila Otey, said, “She’s definitely going to be the leader of this team. She plays with a lot of heart; she’s had experience playing in different situations.”
“She’s very versatile,” the coach continued. “She can score in the paint, she can shoot threes, she’s not afraid to take it to the basket.”
Otey said her point guard could play well at either of the two guard positions or the forward positions if necessary. “Playing center, well, that would take some doing,” Otey said, “but she can play them all.”
Brown feels most comfortable running the offense, setting up plays, distributing the ball and getting stops on the other team.
“A point guard always has to have a positive attitude,” she said. “They have the opportunity to help everybody perfect their job, to make them feel they’re doing a good job.”
She said she felt that her new team had potential “probably, (at) the very first practice. We have so many new faces. They’re all doing so good, they’re all learning. If they didn’t understand something, they would ask questions. We have the heart to play.”
She said she also liked the fact that the team has devotions before every practice.
Asked about her new coach, she said, “She has patience to deal with all of the learning that has to take place. She’s doing an awesome job of encouraging us and helping us out.”
Brown started playing hoops at age 4 at the Princeton Recreation Center. She was primarily a point guard at Oakvale Middle School, and played all three guard positions in various offensive sets at PikeView High School through last season.
She has played on several AAU teams, including the Virginia Warriors last summer in Roanoke, Va. She has been to nationals in Myrtle Beach twice, where she won the “Hot Shot” contest both times. She has also been to the nationals in Orlando, Fla.
Her mother Tina Brown said, “She is a leader and will step up to a challenge. She is hard working and she’s an encouragement to her teammates. She wants to help get MCA’s athletic program back to where it used to be — known statewide.”
At Mercer Christian, Tina Brown said, “The classrooms are smaller (with) more time for individual students ... . It’s an all-around good Christian environment. She admires and respects her teachers and loves her coaches.”
— Contact Tom Bone at email@example.com