April 16, 2014 11:49:56 PM
If Moesha Calmes could find a way to pull it off, she would go play for all of the schools that recruited her.
It just so happened that the New Hope High School senior girls basketball player delivered two of her best performances of the season in the Lady Trojans' last two games. Calmes' 21-point effort against Canton and her 15-point showing in a season-ending loss to South Jones in the Class 5A state semifinals in Jackson added to the throng of college coaches who were trying to get Calmes to attend their school.
As much as Calmes liked all of the schools that recruited her, it came down to finding the right fit for her and the school that felt like she was still at home.
On Wednesday, Calmes picked West Alabama over Jones County Junior College. Calmes, who has been playing on the New Hope High varsity girls basketball team since she was in the eighth grade, said West Alabama is close to home and provides a great environment with "goofy" teammates like the ones she will leave at Heritage Academy.
Calmes, who plans to study Kinesiology in college, visited the West Alabama campus in Livingston, Ala., in April. A few days following her visit, she decided she was ready to be a Tiger.
"When I did that, I just felt so much pressure off me," Calmes said. "I didn't have to worry about who I was going to sign with.
"It has been a tough journey, but it was worth it. I didn't know how to play organized ball because I was always taught to play street ball."
Calmes credited New Hope High girls basketball coach Laura Lee Holman for working with her and instilling confidence in her so she could believe she could do it. That confidence was crucial because Holman telling Calmes she had potential and that she could go on to college and play basketball helped her learn how not to hold back when she is on the court.
"I was so hard on her at a young age because I saw the potential and I knew she had a dream of playing at the next level," Holman said. "I knew she could take it, and she did."
Calmes showcased that new-found assertiveness late in the season. Her 21 points eliminated Canton and paved the way for the team to punch its ticket to Jackson. Unfortunately, New Hope's run ended a little too short in a 50-48 loss to South Jones. In that game, Calmes stepped up when teammates D.J. Sanders and Taylor Baudoin were struggling and was the team's primary scoring option. Calmes wouldn't have been able to play that role as an underclassmen. Holman said Calmes was "trying
to play perfect" instead of just being herself.
The past two seasons, though, Calmes has emerged as a leader and a primary scoring option.
"She is just a great basketball player," Holman said. "Her leadership skills in the playoffs and throughout districts, I couldn't have asked for anything more. She stepped outside of her comfort zone because it is not in her personality to be a leader, but her teammates needed her to lead and she helped us get through a lot of tough days."
Calmes averaged 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.6 assists, and 2.5 steals per game for the Lady Trojans, who finished the season 26-3. Calmes came up bigger than those statistics in the state semifinals. Trailing 43-35 with 5 minutes, 53 seconds remaining, New Hope used a 12-2 run to take the lead. Calmes hit a jumper and a 3-pointer to ignite the spurt. Another jumper by Calmes gave New Hope a 47-45 lead with 3:32 to go. Calmes said that spurt was possible because she realized she wasn't being selfish if she looked for her shot, especially at a time when the team needed a lift. She credits Holman for helping her understand how to make better decisions on and off the court.
"I had teammates and coach Holman and coach (Ame) Walker there to tell me to keep pushing and that it all was going to work out in the end," Calmes said. "My ninth-grade year, we didn't do so good and that is when I wondered, 'Is this for me? Is this what I want to do?' I thought about it and realized I had teammates that love me and a coach that loves me and that I had talent that wasn't developed. I thought this is what I love and I am not going to stop now."
A more confident Calmes capitalized on those moments and learned how to balance being a point guard and finding a way to be a scoring threat. She said everything clicked in a victory against Starkville at Humphrey Coliseum. That's when she realized how scary it was that she could take over a basketball game. Calmes said that is "one of the best things she ever did."
Wednesday's signing ceremony likely ranks pretty high on that list, too.
With the college list finally trimmed to one Calmes can concentrate on not holding back and showing she can lead a team and be selfish at the same time.
"The West Alabama coaches already have said the same thing that coach Holman has been preaching to me for five years: Don't hold back," Calmes said. "To hear them say that and you're a freshman, it means a lot. (College basketball) is going to be a little different. We're going to play with a shot clock and it is a little faster pace, but I will be able to do it, knowing I have coach Holman who has been teaching me to do it, so I got it."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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