ROWLAND —Before A’Terria Quick started kindergarten, Lula Ratley had a feeling she would become something special..
“I remember her as a little girl, about maybe 4 or 5 years old and she stayed out (near) where I lived,” Ratley said. “She would be dribbling the ball at 4 or 5 years old and I told my husband ‘This young lady right here, I’m going to coach her one day in high school.’ Time passed and here she is.”
Even as just as a sophomore, the little girl that Ratley once envisioned as the program’s future has grown into one of the county’s top players.
Prior to Wednesday’s win against against Fairmont, Quick was averaging 26.6 points, 4.2 assists, 5.1 rebounds and 3.7 steals per game. She’s scored 30 or more points four times in 11 games and had the state’s third quadruple double in history on Jan. 10, when she had 41 points, 14 assists, 12 steals and 10 rebounds against West Columbus.
“I just love the game,” Quick said. “I’m athletic. I love sports but basketball is my real thing. I love to do it.”
Born and raised in Rowland, Quick has been playing basketball for longer than she can remember. Raised in a family of athletes, she also plays softball but generally takes a basketball with her so that she can work on her skills wherever she goes.
A quiet leader, Quick has been the center of the Mustangs’ offense for the last two seasons. Quick wasn’t never insistent on playing the role she does,
“I didn’t intend to be but I’m just gifted,” Quick said. “It comes naturally.”
It comes naturally but is also the product of hard work both on and off the court. Quick uses her actions to lead and is known for her focused demeanor.
“It’s kinda calm because she doesn’t show a lot of emotion,” Ratley said. “She doesn’t show it, she just plays it.”
With the ability to both penetrate the lane and drain 3-pointers, Quick scored 29 points in her freshman debut last year and has never scored less than 10 points in a game and opposing coaches are well aware of the threat she presents.
“Everything they do revolves around what 24 does,” St. Pauls coach Michael White said after playing the Mustangs earlier this month.
In addition to the 41 points against Whiteville, Quick scored 42 of the Mustangs’ 49 points in a loss to Whiteville.
Because of her prominence, opposing teams will do whatever they need to to attempt to stop her.
Some teams, like St. Pauls, have tried to stop her with a box-and-one, dedicating a guard to Quick while the other four played a zone. Fairmont took a different approach on Tuesday, dedicating two players to keeping the ball away from her while leaving the other three in a zone.
It doesn’t faze her.
“I’m not going to stop,” Quick said. “I have faith in my team.”
Ratley said the strategy becomes wearing teams down and setting up the necessary picks to get her the ball late in the game.
In the Fairmont game she was limited to only six points in the first half but used screens and fastbreak runs to score 17 in the second, getting key points to fuel a comeback win.
“Once she could get one screen, I knew she could get the ball,” Ratley said.
But for all she’s doing right, Ratley and Quick are also concentrating on what can be done differently. The primary focuses are on improving her quickness and making sure she is focused on both ends of the floor.
“My defense needs to step up,” Quick said. “I’ve got to work hard on that.”
The other goal is to get the Mustangs back to the 1A state playoffs. Last year the girls finished second in the Three Rivers Conference and made a run to the third round.
“We want to get farther than that,” Quick said. “We don’t have the team we had last year but I’m hoping we can get better.”
It’s a task that’s been a bit more challenging as the team works on finding consistent scoring down the lineup after graduating seniors Virginiya McCormick and Ahlea Dickens from last year’s team.
But like last year, the team continues to revolve around the young phenom, one that Ratley admittedly gets caught up watching once and a while.
Asked what Quick means to the team, Ratley shrugged and struggled to find the right words.
“What can I say?” Ratley said. “She’s the core,”