High School Sports

Why Bandys High will put its girls’ basketball hopes in the hands of a 14-year-old

Bandys High’s Mallorie Haines is a flashy 14-year-old guard who joins the legendary girls’ basketball program this season.
Bandys High’s Mallorie Haines is a flashy 14-year-old guard who joins the legendary girls’ basketball program this season.

She’s 14, loves working with animals and fishing in Alaska, and she hasn’t played a minute of high school basketball.

But Mallorie Haines might be the next in a line of standouts who have made Bandys High a legend in North Carolina girls’ high school basketball.

Haines and her first-year varsity head coach have set a goal of putting Bandys back in the state championship conversation, and they hope to begin this season.

“I’m super excited about this challenge, says Haines, a 5-foot-9 freshman guard whose shooting skills have made her a star in Charlotte-area AAU basketball circles. “I’d love to be a leader on a team like this.

“I cant wait to start.”

Bandys has won six girls’ basketball state championships, tied with Hayesville for second-most in North Carolina (Winston-Salem Bishop McGuinness has nine titles). Four of those championships came under the late Mike Matheson, a N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame coach whose teams were 268-29 with 10 conference and four state championships from 1979-89. That run helped kickstart a girls’ basketball dynasty.

Nicki Sigmon is the girls’ basketball coach at Bandys High. STEVE LYTTLE

But the Trojans have slipped under .500 the past two seasons, and they’ve turned to an alum, Nicki Sigmon, to turn things around. Sigmon graduated in 2010, playing under coach Beth Queen, who has agreed to come out of retirement this season and help Sigmon.

Bandys will put a small team on the floor this season, but with a player like Haines as the centerpiece, Sigmon is hopeful of a quick turnaround.

“Mallorie is a ball player,” Sigmon says. “That’s all I need to say. She’s a ball player.”

Haines hit 43 percent of her 3-point shots last season on her Lady Team Charlotte travel team, playing up several age groups with players who will mostly be seniors this season. She led Mill Creek Middle School to an undefeated record last season.

But she is much more, carrying a 4.0 grade-point average and an ambition to become a marine biologist. She spends her free time volunteering with a local veterinarian and on family vacations.

Basketball comes first, though.

“I love it, I love playing,” Haines says. “I am a shooter. I’m always in the gym. If I’m not working on my shooting, I’m working on my ball-handling skills.”

She also is well-educated in the game. Her mother, Tanya Hall, played basketball at Santa Clara University (Calif.). Her AAU coaches include former North Carolina Tar Heel and NBA player Jeff McInnis. McInnis said former NBA player Bobby Jackson was training Haines in California when the family was planning a move east. He reached out to McInnis about working with Haines once the family got to the Charlotte-area.

“She is the truth,” said McInnis, who played for the Hornets, the Denver Nuggets and with LeBron James in Cleveland. “She’s something special. She shoots the ball like crazy. She’ll make 89 of 100 (3-point shots in practice sessions) and she gets mad.

“She’s really competitive and she can play. She’s tall and she can shoot it. We’re working on her ball-handling and once she gets that, she’s the total player. Listen, she’s a high-major recruit, the highest major they can get.”

At Bandys, Haines’ scoring skills will be needed this season. Bandys lost its top three scorers from last season, and McKenzie Deal, who averaged 7.2 points a game in 2015-16, is the top returning player.

Sigmon says three of four sophomores who played extensively last season are back. The missing player is Ashley Wagoner, who is battling leukemia and is a source on inspiration for the team.

“I’m from Bandys. I played at Bandys. I know the winning tradition,” says Sigmon, who coached junior varsity last season. “This is where I always wanted to be. When I graduated from (N.C.) State, I wanted to be here.

“We’ll be young, and we’ll have a lot of guards, but this is a good group of girls. I’m excited.”

Haines says she’s optimistic.

“I’m a shooter,” she says. “So even if I miss, I always believe the next shot will go in. I’ll carry that optimism onto this team.”

Steve Lyttle on Twitter: @slyttle