By Derrick Mahone

dmahone@news-daily.com

Miranda Cantrell never saw herself as an inspiring violinist. She became interested in the violin while watching her older sister participate in the orchestra. Once she reached sixth grade at North Clayton Middle School, Cantrell decided to expand her musical taste to that of Mozart or Beethoven.

The 6-foot North Clayton High senior would be the first to tell that she enjoys playing classical pieces on the violin, but her musical taste is still that of most teenagers.

"I like rap and hip hop," she said. "I like typical teenage music. I didn't see myself playing this kind of music when I was in the sixth grade, because it seemed hard."

But Cantrell has mastered the violin with the help of orchestra teacher Chainey Cherry, who first taught her how to play the instrument. The two were reunited this school year when Cherry because the orchestra teacher at North Clayton in August.

Cherry, who attended college on a music scholarship, has been impressed with Cantrell's ability.

"Miranda likes a challenge," Cherry said. "She goes about playing the violin with the same desire and enthusiasm that she has in the classroom and the basketball court. Miranda is a little further along in her playing than I was at her age."

In November, Cantrell secured her college future by signing a basketball scholarship to Jacksonville State in Alabama. The Concertmasters (first chair) for the North Clayton orchestra, Cantrell said she might attempt to play in college.

"I've talked about it with Mrs. Cherry, and she has really encouraged me to stick with it," Cantrell said. "I still want to pick it up throughout my life. It may be wishful thinking, but I'd like to play in a big symphony one day."

Said Cherry: " "She has some options. Miranda is very versatile as a student, basketball player and a violinist."

If she continues to progress at the rate she did on the basketball court, Cantrell's dream could come true. She has been a four-year varsity player for the Lady Eagles, and has blossomed into one of the top players in the region the last two years. After averaging 17.5 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots last season in leading the Eagles to the state playoffs, Cantrell was named to the All-Southern Crescent and all-state team.

This season, she is averaging 17 points and 15 rebounds as the Lady Eagles are in second place in the region standings.

North Clayton coach Shaka Owens has witness Cantrell grow into a Div. I basketball recruit.

"She went from being just a big body into a good player," said Owens, who is in his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant. "Miranda is definitely one of the top players in the area."

Opposing teams usually double-team Cantrell.

"You have to know where Miranda is all the time on the court," Mundy's Mill coach Julius Omotayo said. "She can be a dominating player."

Jacksonville State coaches are hoping that Cantrell will continue to progress into a complete player. Despite her dominating presence, Cantrell didn't have many scholarship offers until committing to the Ohio Valley Conference school.

She said that West Georgia, Berry, Tennessee State and USC-Upstate were among her suitors, but was sold on Jacksonville State after an unofficial visit in August. The "homey feel" of the picturesque campus that sits on the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains in northeast Alabama is what Cantrell fell in love with.

Cantrell had one of the most bizarre recruiting visits when she first went to the campus. Athletic official were unaware that construction was going to take place on campus forcing the power to be turned off, according to Cantrell.

She toured the campus with flashlights.

"It was sort of neat," Cantrell grinned. "I was impressed that they were able to show me a good visit with just flashlights. I did return later and got another visit."