Published 12:03 am Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Straughn’s Brittany Driver was selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Girls Class 3A All-State basketball first team. Driver is seen here during an earlier game of her senior season. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Straughn’s Brittany Driver was selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Girls Class 3A All-State basketball first team. Driver is seen here during an earlier game of her senior season. | Andrew Garner/Star-News

Early Sunday morning, Brittany Driver awoke to some good news.

Her father, Jay, peaked in and told his daughter that she had been selected to the Alabama Sports Writers Association Girls Class 3A All-State basketball team.

Driver said her initial reaction was excitement, but it was early in the morning.

“I was just trying to start waking up,” she quipped.

The Straughn senior forward helped lead the Lady Tigers to their first state tournament appearance since the 1995-96 season. She was crowned the South Regional MVP in Dothan after a 48-41 victory over Opp in the finals.

This season, she averaged 17.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game, where her team went on a 22-game win streak.

Driver shot 50 percent from the field in her senior year, and was 62 percent from the free throw line.

“I was excited and there are a lot of things I wanted this year,” she said. “I wanted to win state and that didn’t happen, but I did realize that through everything that went on, and getting the first team All-State, that I have a lot to be thankful for. God’s just shown me His faithfulness, so I was really grateful and excited about it. My dad was proud of me, which means a whole lot to me.”

More than three years ago, Driver wasn’t even enrolled at SHS. She had been home schooled.

During what would’ve been about her freshman year, Driver said she started to look to see where God wanted her to go to public school.

“We looked at Brantley, we looked at Opp and we looked at Florala because my granddad (Ronnie) was coaching there,” she said.

The deal breaker was that she had to start playing her first year at the school of her choice.

“The only reason I would come is to play basketball,” Driver said. “I didn’t want to give up home schooling, and give up playing basketball (for one year) — that would just be dumb for me.”

Luckily for Driver, she lives in Rose Hill, which means she’s in the Straughn school district.

Her decision to enroll at SHS was solely because of her family and friends. Brittany’s uncle, Shannon Driver, is principal; and brother, J.D., started his schooling as a freshman while Brittany was a sophomore. Additionally, a lot of her church friends went there, she said.

Driver said she wasn’t ready to come to SHS when her brother went for his freshman year.

“I didn’t know if it meant that much to me because I loved home schooling — I loved being at home,” she said. “He went that first year without me, and I was missing it too much, so I decided it was worth it, and that was what God wanted us to do.”

Driver enrolled for her junior year at SHS, and quickly fell right in the mix with her teammates on the basketball court.

“I felt kind of like a freshman on the basketball level because I never really played high school basketball, except for being in seventh grade in (the Alabama Independent School Association),” she said. “It was kind of different. I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out.

“I fell in love with the girls,” she said. “I love Coach. Coach (Scott Kinsaul) is more than a coach to me, and I’m really thankful for that.”

She had such a good junior year that Driver was selected to play for the South team in the North-South All-Stars basketball game last July. She was also selected as an honorable mention for the Girls class 4A All-State team.

Driver said God gave her the talents that contributed to her successful season.

“He wants you to be a good steward of that talent and use that for Him,” she said. “I really tried to do that this year, and so I think that He’s going to let you shine for Him. I wanted to be that light on the stage for Him — not for me — for Him. I think that’s why He blessed me so much this year to give Him all the glory.”

Getting selected to the All-State team this season wouldn’t have happened without her teammates, Driver said.

“I don’t know if I have good stats or whatever, but think of all those assists my teammates had,” she said. “They missed a shot for me to score. Things like that you don’t think about. That was really good.”

Most of Drivers’ scoring came from good passing and essential put backs that helped the Lady Tigers’ pace in games.

After her team’s 67-9 area tournament win over Excel, Driver reached the 1,000-point mark in her career.

She said she wasn’t aiming for the milestone.

“I knew when I came in my junior year, I had always thought about that,” she said. “I wondered what it would be like to get 1,000 points.

“It wasn’t a big deal, and I didn’t have to have that because what did that really say?” she said. “It’s not that important. At the same time, it’s just one of the things God gave me like a cherry on top of the ice cream.”

Like her career milestone, Driver said she’ll never forget the state tournament game against Holly Pond, where the Lady Tigers lost 38-30 to end their season.

“It’s hard to think about because I hate making excuses, but when you’ve got a good excuse, you’ve got to say it,” she said. “I was feeling sick that day and found out later I had the flu during the game. I told Daddy, I hate making excuses, but he said, ‘well that’s your excuse.’ There was a reason for that.”

Fortunately, Driver said, the girls on this year’s team know what it’s like now and have something to play for next year, even though she won’t be a part.

“I wish I was going to be a part of (the 2013-14 year), but at the same time, it’s for them that they have a chance,” Driver said. “They’re going to be a good team next year, and they’re going to get better.”

The Straughn stand out said she has a couple of scholarship offers, one of which came from Troy University.

She hasn’t decided if she wants to play at the next level, and wants to focus more on her schooling. If she doesn’t get an academic scholarship, then she said she’ll have to take the basketball scholarship.

Just like in her decision to come to SHS, Driver said she’s committing it to prayer.

“That’s definitely an option,” she said. “We’re waiting for an open door.”

Overall on the season, Driver said she’s thankful for all that’s been given to her.

“I’ve just been really thankful for coach Kinsaul and the example he set, and for the girls,” she said. “Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. I am going to miss them. Even if I play at Troy, I’m still not playing with (teammates) Jacie (Williamson), with Paige (Taylor) and with Katelyn (Kinsaul).

“Those are good memories, and so I can end that with a smile on my face because I had a good year with those girls, and I’ll never forget it. That’s something you can tell your kids about in the future.”

Brittany is the daughter of Jay and Robyn Driver of Rose Hill.