December 14, 2010 8:28:00 AM
Assertive. Poised. Aggressive. Focused.
Those are all qualities coaches love to see in their point guards.
Coaches don''t often get all of those traits in one player, so when they do they feel more than blessed.
Columbus High School girls basketball coach Yvonne Hairston can''t help but smile when she thinks about the prospects of having Kiki Patterson for the rest of this season and two more years after that.
"She is a special kid, but I have a lot of special kids on my team," said Hairston, who is in his fourth season as head coach. "This group is very special. I just thank God for them."
Patterson is leading the way with special play. Last week, she had 32 points and 23 points in victories against Kemper County and Noxubee County, respectively. Those efforts came on the heels of a blistering first three games in which Patterson poured in an average of 31.7 points per game.
For her accomplishments, Patterson is The Dispatch''s Prep Player of the Week.
"She has matured into herself and I think she is finding where she is good," Hairston said. "She knows she can go inside and out, and that is a good thing. She is finding her range where she shoots the ball better and is developing into a great player."
Led by Patterson, a left-handed, sophomore point guard, Columbus is off to a 5-1 start this season. The Clarion-Ledger has the Lady Falcons No. 3 in Class 6A in this week''s prep basketball ranking. That lofty status figures to be challenged Friday when Columbus will play host to Jim Hill, the No. 5 team in that ranking as part of the 14th annual Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic.
"We know what we have with this team, and what we have is special," Patterson said. "We know we have a chance to play for a state title. I am just trying to be the leader I can and steer my team in the right direction so we can accomplish that goal."
Last season, Hairston tried to ease Patterson into the varsity rotation, playing her mostly at the two guard. Unfortunately, Patterson ended the 2009-10 season on the sidelines after tearing ligaments in her right ankle.
This season, Patterson has taken on the challenge of playing point guard. She teams with guard Maggie Proffitt to form one of the state''s best one-two scoring punches.
Hairston also said Patterson has learned how to handle the responsibilities of being a point guard and being a player who stuffs the stat box every game.
"I have noticed some of the games that she is not looking to the bench for us to call the plays," Hairston said. "She knows the plays, and she knows when the other team is in a certain type of zone or if they are in a man she knows what plays to run. She is really maturing into the game. She is like a coach on the floor making those calls."
Hairston said Patterson will need to hone those skills because she likely will play point guard at the next level. She said it is best for Patterson to develop all of the skills top point guards need as early as possible because it will push her and the rest of the Lady Falcons to reach their potential.
Patterson feels she has matured as a player and as a leader. She said the injury she suffered at the end of last season made her realize how much she loves the game of basketball. As a result, there is an urgency and a purpose in Patterson''s moves, whether it is how she posts up smaller defenders on the block or how she drives to ball down the court, daring opponents to get in front of her or to prevent her from handing out an assist.
Patterson''s outside shooting has improved and she feels more comfortable shooting beyond 3-point range. Opponents realize Patterson has a variety of ways to beat them, so they have tried plenty of defenses --a box and one or a triangle and two -- to take her out of her comfort zone.
Not many teams have had success.
"Each game I try to take the same approach in that I don''t think anybody can stop me," Patterson said. "The only person who can stop me is myself. I have been doing good for the first part of the season. I hope it continues."
Hairston said she hasn''t been surprised by how quickly Patterson has flashed her scoring and her leadership ability. In fact, she said she saw those abilities in Patterson when she was in the seventh and eighth grade, and is anxious to see how much more Patterson will grow as a player.
"The part she has grown most is in her confidence in herself," Hairston said. "I feel like when she steps on the floor she and the whole team feel we can win the ballgame. She has a confidence level that you guys just have to stop me."
Schedule for Joe Horne Columbus Christmas Classic
3 p.m. -- Noxubee County girls vs. Meridian
4:20 p.m. -- Overton (Tenn.) boys vs. Meridian
5:40 p.m. -- Columbus girls vs. Jim Hill
7 p.m. -- Starkville boys vs. Provine
8:20 p.m. -- Columbus boys vs. Marion (Ark.)
3:30 p.m. -- Brandon girls vs. Starkville
4:50 p.m. -- Brandon boys vs. Noxubee County
Noon -- Starkville girls vs. West Lowndes
1:20 p.m. -- Marion (Ark.) boys vs. Overton (Tenn.)
2:40 p.m. -- Columbus girls vs. Callaway
4 p.m. -- Callaway boys vs. Carver, Ala.
5:20 p.m. -- Lafayette girls vs. Newton
6:40 p.m. -- Columbus boys vs. Tuscaloosa Central (Ala.)
8 p.m. -- Starkville boys vs. Brandon
12:40 p.m. -- East Webster boys vs. Midfield
2 p.m. -- Jim Hill girls vs. Tuscaloosa Central (Ala.)
3:20 p.m. -- Holt (Ala.) boys vs. Newton
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.