Monday, February 23, 2009.
Hephzibah's Aarika Judge is a junior basketball player. Probably one of the best juniors in the state. But her head coach Wendell Lofton sees her another way.
"Aarika is just now in the 11th grade, which means she was just in the 10th grade last year," said Lofton. "So she's still a "baby"."
That's right, a baby. The same nickname he gives all of his non-senior players.
"He probably calls me "baby" because I clown around a lot," said Judge. "I'm not really serious until I hit the floor but when we hit the floor, I'm not a "baby" anymore. Well, I'm still a "baby" but just at practice mostly."
During a game, Judge is a scoring machine. Whether it's down low or from the outside, the junior plays like a seasoned veteran.
"Without her on the floor, the "babies", the 9th and 10th graders, they're kind of nervous," said Lofton. "But when they see her on the floor, they know they got a outlet. She is the stabilizer."
And Coach Lofton knows a little something about being stable. He;s been the head coach at Hephzibah since 1969. And while playing for Coach Lofton is a lot of fun, it certainly isn't easy.
"He's getting me ready for college," said Judge. "He ain't no walk in the park. They see him joke around at games or whatever but it ain't easy."
Judge is already being recruited by several Division One schools. In fact, the college coaches call about everyday, which can be a bit annoying. But it's annoying, but it's an annoyance she's willing to live with.
"You know, I want some free time every now and then but then, they always pressure me to call this coach or call that coach," said Judge. "So it can be annoying but I like it."