Photo by Heather Middleton
By Derrick Mahone
Drew girls coach Candence Jackson has good reason to be excited about the future of the first-year varsity program. In its second year of as a school, but first on the varsity competition level, Drew will not have its first graduating class until next school year.
Jackson will have all her players back from this season's team, which is 11-6 overall and 7-4 in Region 4-AAA.
While Jackson is looking forward to the future, the Lady Titans are in contention for their first state playoff berth. Entering the week, Drew is currently in fourth place in the region standings.
"I'm very excited about the future of this program, but we have a good thing going on now," Jackson said. "We have the attention of a lot of people now. People are beginning to know us when they play us."
A nine-game winning streak has obviously grabbed the attention of the competition. The team hasn't lost since a 67-40 setback to seventh-ranked Sandy Creek on the road. They meet again Saturday at Drew for the rematch.
In addition to enjoying her team play well, Jackson is also thrilled with the opportunity to coach her daughter, Leah.
"It has been a pleasure coaching her," said the elder Jackson, who coached at Carroll City Senior High in Miami prior to moving to the Atlanta area five years ago.
As a first-year JV program last season, the Lady Titans finished the season with a 13-7 record. To start the season, Drew lost five of its first six games before hitting its current winning streak.
"It took a little while to get the team chemistry down," said Jackson, who was an assistant at Riverdale before starting the Drew program in 2009. "I think with this group, the sky is definitely the limit."
Jackson will get few argument from some of the coaches in the region.
"They are a much improved team," said Henry County coach Carl Caputa, whose team was swept by the Lady Titans this season. "They are a pretty good team. They have some talent on that team."
Junior Precious Person is the team's scoring leader. A talented player that can play both the guard and forward position. Jackson was fortunate when sophomore DeDe Bebose moved into the district from Mount Zion last season. She mostly runs the point with Person playing both guard positions.
"We have been working as a team," Person said. "We are playing together."
Said Jackson: "Precious is a great leader for us. She really excels academically and is a natural talent. She really makes her teammates around her better and she has a great support system around her."
Jackson saw the potential in the team last season as they competed on the JV level as a first year school. Most of the players are dual sport athletes.
We are starting to jell as a team," Jackson said. "Since most of the girls play other sports, they stay very active year round."