After building a sizable lead through the first three quarters, the Sycamore Lane Middle School lady Bucks found themselves in a closer-than-expected battle with East Hoke down the stretch in last season’s Southeastern championship game.
Noticing his team was losing momentum at a critical time, coach Daniel Dockery called a timeout to give his players a chance to regroup. And that’s when starting point guard Shanqaylia Stanton made her opinion known.
“I told my team and coach that we should run a full-court press on defense so we could trap them down-court and set up easy baskets,” said Stanton, who is currently an eighth-grader at Sycamore Lane. “It worked the whole game, so I thought we should go back to it.”
Dockery listened to his star player’s advice, and shortly thereafter East Hoke’s best player would foul out en route to the lady Bucks securing the crunch-time victory. Sycamore Lane finished their season with a perfect 10-0 record.
And during their undefeated run, Stanton was Sycamore Lane’s best player and unquestioned leader, averaging 20 points, five assists and five steals-per-game on the year.
But more importantly, that timeout in the championship game confirmed everything that Dockery knew about Stanton: That she is a player with skills and smarts beyond her years. And now the entire county has been put on notice.
Stanton is a future star in the making.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of great players over these past five years, but Shanqaylia is one-of-a-kind,” Dockery said. “Not only is she a leader on the court, but she also excels in the classroom too. She’s a player of few words, but when she does speak those words have power and everyone stops what they’re doing to listen to what she has to say. She’s got a great future, and I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to coach her.”
Having grown up in Bennettsville, S.C., Stanton began playing basketball at the age of 8, working close with her uncle Quandaveon McCollum who she says had a big impact on her game.
In just a couple years, Stanton’s natural basketball talent began to shine through and earn the attention of players, coaches and onlookers alike.
“When I was playing a lot of people were talking about me,” Stanton said. “People were telling me that I was good, and it made me want to work harder and become a better player.”
The chatter has followed Stanton ever since, and it continued right into her seventh grade year when she enrolled at Sycamore Lane.
“I’ve found myself asking ‘did I really just see that?’ quite a few times watching her play basketball,” said Sycamore Lane athletic director Adam Romaine, who has overseen future Scotland High School standout athletes such as volleyball player Caroline Pridgen and football stars Tony McCrae and Caison Murphy during his tenure at the school. “Players like Shanqaylia naturally stand out, and as an athletic director it’s exciting to say you got to witness someone get their start at your school.”
And as Stanton demonstrated her scoring ability, stellar court vision and willingness to get teammates involved last year, one coach was in the stands watching her development. That was Scotland High School varsity girl’s basketball coach David Johnson, who subsequently invited Stanton to take part in the lady Scots’ summer workouts which involved visits to more than a half-dozen different basketball camps.
The skills that Stanton exhibited to her stunned Scotland teammates this past summer were eerily reminiscent of a current star making waves for the lady Scots.
“She reminds me of what Ariel (Ratcliff) does out there for us,” said Scotland senior forward and reigning Southeastern Conference player of the year Jonissa Monley. Last year for the lady Scots, Ratcliff averaged 10 points, eight assists, six rebounds and six steals a game as Scotland won their first conference championship tournament in 30 years. A former lady Buck herself, Ratcliff has also gotten off to a scorching start this year for Scotland, collecting 18 steals and 12 assists just two games into the 2012-13 season.
“In my opinion, she’s the next big thing here in Scotland and will be good for this team when all of our seniors leave after this year,” Monley added.
With her sights set on making an impact at Scotland High School and beyond in the years to come, Stanton nonetheless has one last season to play at Sycamore Lane.
That season started Nov. 29 at home against West Hoke Middle School, a game that the lady Bucks handily won 42-10. In the season-opener, Stanton put together a stat line reading 18 points, five steals and three assists, scoring eight-straight points at one interval in the second quarter as Sycamore Lane promptly put the game out of reach.
And while Stanton’s still got a year to go before making her lady Scots’ debut, that hasn’t stopped Johnson from making his intentions known regarding the Sycamore Lane honor roll student waiting in the wings.
“The minute she steps foot on the Scotland campus I’m handing her a basketball,” Johnson said. “From what I’ve seen, Shanqaylia can start right now.”