South Charlotte

Garland Austin sees a life beyond basketball

When Garland Austin scored her 25th point before halftime against Asheville School earlier this month, Charlotte Latin girls' basketball coach Deb Savino started doing the math in her head.

She pulled Austin out of the game and spent the rest of the half and halftime trying to figure out how close Austin was to 1,000 points.

Austin needed three more points.

The senior finished with 34 points, a career high, hit eight of nine three-point attempts - a school record - and became the first Charlotte Latin girls' basketball player in at least 16 years to score 1,000 career points.

The Charlotte Latin girls' basketball program has struggled since Austin started on the varsity team as a freshman; she's yet to make it to the state playoffs. Through hard work and dedication, Austin, also a star pitcher on the softball team, has helped revitalize Latin basketball.

Scoring her "1,000th point was huge for these kids, to see that something like that is something they can strive for," Savino said.

For the first time in Savino's three-year tenure, the Hawks had enough players to field a junior varsity team. The program has nine freshmen; two play on the varsity squad.

"These girls are thinking about the future, which hasn't happened in the past," said Savino.

Austin, who will turn 18 on Feb. 4, has been a large part of shaping that future.

Austin grew up playing basketball with her older brother, Davis, who played football and basketball and ran track at Charlotte Latin. She began playing AAU basketball at 10 years old but realized before her freshman year that she couldn't keep playing AAU basketball and travel softball. While she called basketball her "first passion," Austin (5-foot-6) decided to focus on softball in the offseason because she thought it was her best chance to play a sport in college.

"It was a really hard decision at the time," said Austin, who also ran cross country for the first time this year. "I wish I didn't have to make the decision."

Austin was mostly a shooter in middle school and AAU but was forced to move to point guard as a freshman on the varsity team at Latin. While shooting is still her strength - she's averaging a team-high 16.5 points a game - Austin has learned how to drive and find other open shooters. She is averaging 4.6 assists per game this year.

Unlike years past, Austin has help offensively, which takes pressure off her to be the primary scorer. A core of juniors led by Becca Jones (11.8 points per game) and Brooke Brown (10.6 points, 9.6 rebounds per game) have stepped up this year and helped Latin (7-9 through Jan. 25) have a good chance at making the 12-team N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 3A tournament for the first time since the 2007-08 season.

"This year has been a turnaround for us. I'm really glad I was able to participate and see all the hard work pay off," she said.

Despite interest from Division III college basketball teams and her success in softball, Austin has decided not to play varsity sports in college. Knowing she won't continue in college has made her senior season even more special.

"It's definitely bittersweet," she said. "I'm definitely going to miss it. These memories really will be some of my favorite times in high school."

Austin recently was accepted to UNC Chapel Hill and the University of Virginia, but she's waiting to hear from more schools before she makes a decision. She has volunteered at Carolinas Medical Center, is Latin's service club president and led a project that supported clean water in Haiti this year. She's passionate about public health and wants to continue studying it in college.

She'll miss playing sports next year but said she has more important things on her mind.

"I realized that while sports are an awesome thing and they really have been great in high school, there's a little bit more that I would like to pursue on the collegiate level and I don't want it to detract from the reason I would be going to college," said Austin.