Tuesday, January 05, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Sports isn’t top priority for JHS star

Jacksonville senior Tatianna Lacy is a two-year starter in basketball and a track champion with remarkable focus and drive, but is also a kind-hearted bookworm.

Leader sports editor

There is something unique about Tatianna Lacy. It could almost be called shyness. Not exactly because what’s missing is a lack of ego that often comes with being one of the best athletes in school.

Tatianna Alee’ah Lacy, 17, of Jacksonville, is the daughter of Larry and Tamesha Cunningham. She has been one of the fastest sprinters in her age group since early youth, and has been the starting center for the Lady Red Devil basketball team the last two years.

Lacy is not shy, not even soft-spoken in the usual sense, though her speaking voice can be quiet at times, usually when her eyes drift far away as she scans the mind for just the right words to answer. But it was one of the very last things she said about herself that shines through the fastest when speaking in depth with her.

“I’m a loving person,” said Lacy, when asked at the end of our interview if there was anything else people should know about her.

It wasn’t said with a sense of urgency or a need for people to know it. It came through as an indictment of the interviewer, who had, amidst all the talk of athletic accolades, overlooked what’s most important to, and most obvious about the subject.

You might guess by her lean, 5-foot-10 frame that she’s an athlete, but you never would guess it through conversation. She likes to talk about books and family, her new job and other typical high school senior stuff at least as much as she talks about sports.

But that doesn’t mean she’s unable to focus when it’s time to hit the track or the court. Crystal Scott, who has been Lacy’s track coach the last two years, and is also the girls’ basketball coach this year, says having five players with the work ethic and dedication of Tatianna Lacy is a coach’s dream.

“That’s it,” said Scott. “She comes to work with no attitude or anything like that. It’s great to have that superstar player. But I think any coach loves having players like Tatianna.”

The Lady Red Devils have suffered a lot of attrition this season as Scott has laid down unwavering demands that were never established by the previous coach. Of the 15 on the varsity roster at the start of the season, nine remain as conference play begins. Lacy is the most decorated athlete of the group, but Scott likes what’s left.

“The nine that are still here are the ones that have proven they want to be here,” Scott said.

Lacy admits it’s been a huge adjustment from William Rountree her first two years of varsity basketball, to Scott, but sees benefit in the change.

“It’s way more demanding with coach Scott,” said Lacy. “Don’t get me wrong, I love coach Rountree and miss him, but I love coach Scott, too. She works us hard and demands more of us off the court as well. I think in the long run it’ll make us stronger.”

Lacy had an advantage for dealing with the new, more demanding basketball coach that other players perhaps didn’t have. She was used to a demanding coach.

Her dad played football for UA-Monticello and founded the AAU track program, Cunningham racing. Lacy has been running for him for many years. Her mother Tamesha was also a star track athlete in high school and earned a scholarship to Grambling State Not only does Lacy have to do all the work her high school coaches require, she also does the training at home required by dad.

While she loves basketball most, Lacy knows her best chance for a scholarship will be in track. She was the 5A-Central 200-meter dash champion last year, and finished second in the 100m.

Several colleges interested in her talents have contacted her. She’s already fully qualified academically, but she isn’t close to making a decision. That’s largely because she’s not confident about being on her own, and shows a surprising willingness to talk about her insecurities.

“I’m nervous about leaving home,” Lacy said. “I’m definitely going to do it. I want to be on my own, I’m just scared I don’t have the experience to do it right and take care of everything you have to be responsible for. But I’m going to do it.”