To look at her accomplishments now, its easy to visualize the towering Sha Brown running basketball drills to exhaustion from childhood, pounding the pavement from the moment she could first pick up a basketball.
Her trajectory toward high school stardom took a decidedly more circuitous route.
“I didn’t even want to go out there and shoot it,” Brown said. “I was like, ‘It’s too much work, it’s too hot outside.’ I’d just be inside watching TV or something.”
Oh how things have changed.
A self-professed “gym rat” now, the 6-foot-4 post, affectionately called “Big ‘un” by her friends and teammates, has lived and breathed basketball since first picking it up in eighth grade, and she finally reaching the pinnacle of her career as a senior at McGregor this season.
Her 22.4 points per game was the best in the area, and she added 12.1 rebounds per game to lead the Lady Bulldogs to a place in the regional semifinals, one of the best postseason showings in school history.
The double-double machine is this year’s Super Centex Player of the Year, edging Midway sharpshooter Makenzie Robertson by the slimmest of margins.
“When we used to get ready to go to basketball games, girls would be petrified, like, ‘Is that the coach?’ ” Brown said. “Then I’d get my suit on and they’d be like, ‘Oh my God, that’s the player.’ I’ve always been taller than them. I’m used to it now.”
Angela Garrett, a former McGregor point guard, finally cajoled Brown into trying out for the basketball team in eighth grade. Brown had fleeting experiences with basketball in P.E. classes before then, but the physical aspect was never appealing enough to give it a serious go.
From her undefeated, 25-0 eighth-grade team — she was already up to 6 feet then — to a McGregor team that romped through District 16-2A this season on her broad shoulders, Brown’s impression on Lady Bulldog basketball has been as big as her shoe size.
Admittedly a “klutz” early on, Brown began developing her now devastating low-post game by picking up trash in the offseason to cobble together enough money to travel to basketball camps during the summer.
Though she soon developed into a low-post terror, her size came with its drawbacks.
“You get stared at a lot by people,” Brown said. “They give you ugly looks, like ‘Oh my God, that’s a really tall girl, she must be half man or something.’ I kind of brush it off because I’m so used to hearing it throughout the years.”
The way McGregor ended its season, a 44-29 loss to Peaster, wasn’t so easy to shake off. Brown single-handedly got the Lady Bulldogs into the regional semis by scoring four of her 28 points in the last 17 seconds to lead McGregor past Grandview, 60-57.
But the Peaster loss unceremoniously dumped McGregor out of the playoffs, ending Brown’s career with her sobbing on the bench next to long-time teammate Ashley Reineke.
It was a bittersweet way to end the four-year run of one of the most dominant players in Lady Bulldog history.
Not bad for a player who hated the idea of basketball until eighth grade.
“It’s definitely in my future now,” Brown said. “I’m planning on playing for a long time.”
Reggie Davis Coach of Year: Todd Monsey, Midway
As a kid, Todd Monsey viewed the Axtell High gym as a place of refuge from the tempest of everyday life.
His home gym and his role inside it may have changed in the years since his playing days, but Monsey sure hasn’t.
“I was the typical coach’s kid, in the gym every chance I got,” Monsey said. “He worked long hours obviously being a coach, and it enabled my brother and sister and I to basically live in the gym.”
In just his first year as a head coach, Monsey sure had plenty of those in leading Midway to a regional semifinal appearance this season, despite losing three players to Division I rosters after last year.
For his work this season, he’s been named the Reggie Davis Super Centex Coach of the Year.
Even before Monsey was old enough to suit up for the Longhorns, his father, Dale, a head coach at Axtell for nearly 30 years, was teaching the game to him.
When Monsey finally caught on as a middle school coach in 2005, it was a good time to be in the girls’ program at Midway. He helped guide the feared trio of DeLisa Gross, Krissica Harper and Cokie Reed — a McDonald’s All-American — through the ranks, and he was an assistant when those three led the Pantherettes to their seventh state title as an assistant in 2009.
“I actually met Cokie the first day I interviewed for the job,” Monsey said. “My very first day they took me to meet her, DeLisa and that senior group, and it was something to walk into an eighth-grade gym and see that talent.”
But with those three pillars gone after last season and previous head coach Teri Morrison gone to Southlake Carroll, Monsey was suddenly thrust into the head coaching job at just 28 years old.
Midway dragged out of the gate this season, starting just 4-4. For any Midway team, let alone one defending a state title, Monsey knew that record would draw raised eyebrows if something didn’t change fast.
A 59-53 win over Class 5A No. 1 Pflugerville just before Thanksgiving provided just the galvanizing spark Monsey was looking for.
“We went to the locker room after the game, and I was just telling them what a great job we did . . . and Dianna (Jones) looked at me and said, ‘Coach, we didn’t want to be 4-5,’ ” Monsey said. “From that point on they just got to a point where they didn’t want to lose.”
The team went 25-1 in the regular season from that point on, and the Pantherettes’ playoff run ended three games deep with a two-point loss in the regional semifinals.
“I think it’s something that drives me,” Monsey said. “It’s something that’s constant in my mind, to see the banners, and to know the winning and to know that it doesn’t matter age or experience, it now rests with me.”
Newcomer of the Year: Briana Kirven, Coolidge
Coolidge girls’ basketball coach Bobby Smith knew he was getting something special with Briana Kirven.
He just didn’t know how special until she stepped on the court as a freshman for the first time last season.
The nimble post player was a known entity to Smith, who had watched Kirven grow up around Coolidge.
But watching the 5-7 Kirven dominate all year stunned the five-year Coolidge coach in a way that few before have.
“There was a couple games that I was actually amazed by her,” Smith said. “She’s kind of relentless with those boards.”
Indeed, Kirven’s astounding numbers — 20.9 points and 11.7 rebounds per game — were plenty to earn her the Newcomer of the Year award.
The freshman was a vocal leader for Coolidge this season, guiding the Lady Yellowjackets to a 23-8 regular season and a berth in the Class 1A Region II regional quarterfinals.
“I always try to be a leader,” Kirven said. “It wasn’t hard, even if too many people didn’t want to listen. i just tried the best I could.”
2010 SUPER CENTEX GIRLS’ BASKETBALL TEAM
Player of the Year: Sha Brown, McGregor
Newcomer of the Year: Briana Kirven, Coolidge
Reggie Davis Coach of the Year: Todd Monsey, Midway
|P||Cara Gorton||Sr||China Spring|
|P||Porsha Roberts||Sr||La Vega|
|G||Ashley Bean||Jr||Waco High|
|G||Alison Cox||Sr||Valley Mills|
|G||Macy Vedder||Sr||Valley Mills|
|G||Brittany Norwood||Sr||La Vega|
Sarah Lockett, Monique Moss, Tyler Reid, Aquilla; Peyton Downs, Axtell; Hannah Maass, Bynum; Felicia Martinez, Covington; Sidney Siepert, Dimmy Weeks, Evant; Courtney Morton, Fairfield; Glynna Johnson, Gatesville; Jordan Henderson, Iesha Simmons, Africa Lang, Rayven Cornish, Hubbard; Shaimyaa Walker, La Vega; Katie Sampson, Lorena; Vanessa Mayes, Marlin; Kaymee Gooden, Keshia Daniel, Mart; TaRoya Clayborn, Ashley Reineke, McGregor; Megan Poston, Meridian; Brianna Bates, Midway; Alison McGinnis, Reicher; Danielle Rousey, Riesel; Mackenzie Roach, Robinson; Julie Thornton, Rosebud-Lott; Chrystal Alexander, Shanequae Mims, Madison Watson, RyNesha Brooks, Teague; Loryn Goodwin, Jourdan Truesdale, Alisha Mosely, Temple; Rebecca Bond, Lauren Brown, Morgan Deaver, Hayley Johnson, Vanguard; Jasmine Evans, Tianna Cobb, Waco High; Kristina Fabian, West; Jami Bellah, Whitney.
About the first team
Her 19.9 points and 7.8 rebounds per game pushed Marlin into the regional semifinals this season.
Gatesville talisman earned District 7-3A MVP, averaging 15.5 points and leading team to district title.
Slashing guard poured in 11.3 points per game, and length — she averaged 5.7 rebounds — added to game.
Shared District 16-2A co-MVP with Finstad for good reason: 17.8 points, 4.5 steals and 4.3 assists.
Did a bit of everything for regional playoff team: 18.7 points, 8.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 6.0 steals.
Presence was critical for Hico, as she averaged 18.9 points and was deadly efficient, shooting 51 percent.
District 20-3A defensive MVP was league’s best stopper: 11.3 rebounds and 3.1 steals led Fairfield to regional semis.
The smooth-shooting Pantherette gave defenses headaches from range, making 43 percent of 3s.
A rock in the low post, she averaged 20 points and 14 rebounds as Hillsboro’s most dangerous threat.
Sr, China Spring
District 7-3A offensive MVP averaged 16 points, 12 rebounds and led team into regional tournament.
Sr, La Vega
Her wingspan and height gave her 13.6 points and 13.1 rebounds per game, along with 5.3 blocks.
As dominating as it comes, Brown was the driving force for the Lady Bulldogs’ playoff run this season.
Kirven’s astronomical numbers — 20.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 3.7 steals — belied her youth.
Despite huge losses from state title team, first-year coach led squad to regional semifinals.