Leroy Osborne has seen a lot in more than two decades as a basketball coach. He’s coached Monroe Parks and Recreation teams, and spent 10 years at Monroe Middle School and seven years at Monroe High, where he has served as the junior varsity boys’ basketball coach and a varsity assistant.
But Osborne, now in his first-year as the Monroe girls’ basketball head coach, said he has never seen a better rebounder than 6-foot-2 senior forward Zasha Barrett.
Barrett, 17, has pulled down more than 900 rebounds in her four years and also has averaged a double-double (points and rebounds) in each of the past three seasons.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time, and I think Zasha is the best rebounder I have ever seen,” said Osborne, noting former Monroe boys’ basketball standout Issac Blakeney – now a wide receiver at Duke – also came to mind. “When the ball goes up on the board or off the rim, Zasha is going to get it. I’ve seen her run through opposing players and even her own teammates to get the ball. She is a rebounding machine.”
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Barrett said her rebounding comes naturally.
“Rebounding is all about your will to get the ball, and I want to get every rebound when I’m on the court,” Barrett said. “Honestly, when I’m out there playing, I don’t think about it a lot.”
After averaging 11.4 points and 12.8 rebounds as a sophomore, Barrett put up 14.3 points and 12.6 rebounds per contest last year.
This season, Barrett is averaging a career-best 17.6 points to go with 12.5 rebounds.
Barrett has not always been known as a scorer, but she hasn’t had a problem becoming the No. 1 scoring option for the Redhawks.
Barrett has six 20-plus point performances this year, including 24 points in each of her first three games this season in wins over Cox Mill, Albemarle and Piedmont.
In wins against Anson County this season, Barrett scored 26 points and had 20 rebounds on Dec. 12, with 19 points, nine rebounds and nine steaks following on Dec. 17.
In a Dec. 30 win over Anson in the championship game of Chesterfield (S.C.) High’s holiday tournament, she posted a triple-double with 17 points, 15 rebounds and 10 steals.
Osborne said Barrett’s play in a loss to Greensboro’s Dudley during Providence Day’s Martin Luther King Jr. Showcase on Jan. 19 – 10 points and 10 rebounds – impressed college coaches so much that he got 11 different phone calls about her the next day.
Barrett is being most heavily pursued by Shaw and Wingate at this point, but she also has received interest from Guilford, UNC Pembroke and Lander, according to Osborne.
“Zasha does everything so quietly within a game, that you look up, and she has 20 points or 20 rebounds and you barely notice it, because she does things like that almost every game,” Osborne said “For a lot of players, a game or two like that would be a career night. But for Zasha, it’s just a normal thing now. She never asks about her stats at all. She just keeps on making plays.”
Barrett said occasionally someone will tell her about her numbers, but that only motivates her more.
“When the coaches tell me what I’ve done, sometimes it does surprise me,” said Barrett, who also averages 3.8 steals and 1.5 blocks per game. “But I always feel like I can do better. If I get 20 rebounds, I want 25. If I get 25, I want to get 30 rebounds. …
“Overall, I don’t really worry about numbers. I just want to win games. I will trade all the numbers for a win.”
Barrett has been a part of a lot winning at Monroe. The Redhawks have had 73 victories and only 21 losses over the past four seasons.
After going 19-9 in her freshman year, 25-2 in her sophomore season and 15-6 last year, Monroe is 14-4 (4-1 in conference) through Jan. 29. Barrett hopes her final season at Monroe will be the best.
Monroe has lost in the second round of the playoffs the past two years. Both Barrett and Osborne believe they have the team to make a run in the playoffs, including senior guard Bria Roddy (8.6 ppg), junior forward Tyriona Houston (7 ppg, 7 rpg), and sophomores Tanaja Stevenson (8.3 ppg) and Jehniya Smith (4.9 ppg).
“I have a lot more I want to accomplish,” said Barrett, who is also a sprinter on the Monroe track team. “We definitely want to win conference. But it would be a dream to go to Chapel Hill (for the state championship) and win it all.”