Mariah Washington is never totally satisfied with how she is playing basketball.But after more than a decade of working at her game, starting at age 7 with her father, former Charlotte 49ers forward Mike Washington, she is playing a lead role for Hopewell High’s girls’ basketball team. The 5-foot-8 Titans forward is having a career year, as Washington, 17, leads her team in scoring (11.9 points per game) and steals (2.9 per game), and is second on team in rebounding (6.3) and assists (1.5).All of her efforts have come for a balanced Hopewell team that is in first place in the MECKA 4A conference at 14-2 overall, 6-1 in league play through Jan. 20.Washington, who was mainly a role player in most of her first three seasons at Hopewell, has taken on the challenge of stepping up her game from second-year Titans coach Tyrelle Anderson and her father, former Charlotte 49ers forward Mike Washington.“I’ve grown a lot in the last year as a player, and coach Anderson has had a lot to do with that,” said Washington. “He challenged me to be more aggressive, to look to score more and to be more confident in myself. Of course, my dad has always been there for me. But we really worked hard this summer a lot one on one, when it was just me and him in the gym. He has a lot to do with everything I’ve accomplished as a basketball player.”Her older sister, 2013 Hopewell graduate Bria Washington, has also helped her competitive nature.Mariah Washington, who was an all I-Meck 4A conference selection last year, said she made huge strides this summer. She spent it working out with her dad, playing with her AAU team, the Carolina Lady Warriors, playing in the North Meck summer league, and at UNC Charlotte team camp with her Hopewell High team.“I worked a hard as I ever have this summer,” Washington said. “It’s a great feeling to see hard work paying off. But, I have a lot more I want to do with this team at Hopewell.”Anderson saw a similar transformation this summer.“Mariah really had a great summer and you could see her confidence growing with each game,” he said. “She has become a much more assertive player, who looks to make plays and do things she was reluctant to do a few years ago. I’m not surprised. I have always believed in her.”Anderson says it all started with her picking up her intensity in practice. After watching former Hopewell standouts like Sharee Boyd and Hannah Early (now playing at Davidson) early in her career, she understood the level of intensity required to play at a higher level.“I know I wasn’t always a great practice player,” Washington said. “But I started working a lot harder last year in practice, and saw how much it helped me in games. I know I have to give it my all every day and do whatever the coaches ask me to do.”With a Titans team that goes 10 to 12 players deep each game, Anderson says Washington and her teammates are forced to play hard every day. Bryanna Curry, Tanesha Scott, Katie Dillon and Ineesha Hankerson usually round out the starting five, but a spot in the lineup is never safe, according to Anderson.The Titans have also gotten solid contributions from senior Alicia Francis, juniors Rhema Francis and Lauren Parks, sophomores Shaniah Haynes, Sydney Samuels and Megan Sanders, and freshman Erin Thames.“The depth and balance of this team is a huge key to our success,” Anderson said. “We have had great competition just in practice and that had really carried over into our play in games.”Washington has had some big moments in big games for Hopewell, scoring 22 points in a 81-60 win over Lake Norman Charter, netting 20 points in a victory over Hough, and notching 16 points in a loss to rival North Mecklenburg.While Washington and her teammates have accomplished a lot this season, she says it doesn’t mean anything yet. After enduring an 11-14 season last year, Hopewell is eager to get back to their winning tradition.“We had a good team last year, but a lot of things didn’t go our way,” said Washington, alluding to some close losses and injuries. “That experience (last year) has motivated us a lot. We like where we are at right now, but we have to keep working even harder to stay on top (of the conference).”Washington, who boasts a 3.5 grade-point average in the classroom, could also be working on her future in college basketball, as she is getting interest from several schools including Pfeiffer University. But no matter how her career ends, she wants to make sure she gives it her best shot.“My dad keeps reminding me that is my last chance at Hopewell,” Washington said. “But I try to play every game the same and not make one bigger than another. I’m really trying to stay in and enjoy each moment as it comes.”
Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014
Hopewell’s Washington is making her final year count
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer. Have a story idea for Jay? Email him at email@example.com.
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