December 12, 2017 10:29:57 AM
Takeea Bozeman knows what Marvaysha Seals can do on the basketball court.
Among the many skills Seals possesses, Bozeman has confidence in Seals' shooting ability. That's why the West Lowndes High School girls basketball coach talked with Seals at the beginning of the season and encouraged her to shoot the ball. She didn't want Seals, a 5-foot-5 sophomore guard, to be a ball hog. Instead, she wanted Seals to believe in herself and to realize she could be a primary scorer who could help her teammates improve if she accepted her role.
Despite Bozeman's encouragement, Seals admitted it was a challenge at first for her to shoulder that responsibility. After all, she acknowledged she still is growing into a vocal leader.
All that might have changed Saturday.
While Seals didn't raise her voice or shout and scream, she poured in 24 points to help West Lowndes outlast Heritage Academy 63-57 in overtime in the Heritage Academy Shootout in Columbus.
For her accomplishment, Seals is The Dispatch's Prep Player of the Week.
"I am looking forward to being one of the leaders on the team," Seals said. "I got more mature (from last season) and my head is on straight I just want to go to (the Mississippi High School Activities Association State tournament) and led them to state."
Seals said she "really wanted " to do those things last season, too, but she was hesitant because she was only a freshman. This season, she said she feels a little more confident thanks to coach Bozeman, who has motivated her and helped instill pride in her abilities.
"I feel like I have grown a lot over the past year," Seals said. "I have more confidence in myself. I am helping out others and building their confidence, too, because I know I have to step up and be a leader to the younger kids. I try to do that and motivate them, too."
Seals also credits Jeff Smith, her coach with the GTA All-Stars, an Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) team and West Lowndes High assistant basketball coach Derick Lucious for helping her develop her skills. She has been playing basketball since she was 6 years old. She has been a member of school's basketball program since the seventh grade.
Seals has worked her way back into shape after she was in a car accident last May. She said she was a passenger in the car and suffered a neck injury. Seals said she missed three months and had to wear a neck brace. She said she waited a week after she had the neck brace removed before she returned to the gym to work on her basketball skills.
Once she got back on the court, Seals said she worked by herself and with Smith and by herself on her shooting and her ballhandling to catch up for the time she missed.
"I felt like I was a lot behind," Seals said. "I was in the gym as much as I could, three or four days a week."
Seals said it took about three weeks to get back to where she felt she has recovered. She said she felt ready to go at the start of the season, but she also knows she can get even better, especially with her shooting.
Bozeman, who also coaches track and field and volleyball at West Lowndes High, said tried to convince Seals she wouldn't be mad if she missed her shots because no one is going to shoot 1.000 percent from the field. She stressed Seals' ability to shoot from the perimeter and to create shots with her ballhandling would make things easier for all of the Lady Panthers, so she needed to remain confident in games even after a few misses.
Against Heritage Academy, Bozeman said she saw Seals have that epiphany. As a result, she said Seals kept shooting and took an initial step toward building her confidence.
"We set up situations for her to be open to try to build her confidence," Bozeman said, "and when she doesn't shoot it is like, 'C'mon, we trust you. We trust you.' I don't think she thought we trusted her. ... We trusted her to shoot the ball. She just didn't trust herself."
Bozeman said the team went through sort of the same thing last season. She said Seals had her biggest shooting night against Heritage Academy, so she hopes the victory, which raised the team's record to 2-4, keeps her on that path for the rest of the season.
"Once she started shooting the 3-pointer, she started driving, so it was like, 'We have Vaysha. We have Vaysha,' " Bozeman said. "I think she can see it now, that when she is shooting and when she is driving it is better for the whole team. When she started driving, it started setting up different situations and I could feel her confidence getting better. I could see it in her eyes. Every move she made it was a little bit different. Once she started shooting and driving, her defense even got better."
West Lowndes will play host to New Hope at 6 tonight as part of a varsity doubleheader.
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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