GIRLS BASKETBALL: New coach aims to turn around Bulldogs

Published 7:59 pm Wednesday, October 26, 2016

NEDERLAND — Nicole Abercrombie didn’t have much time to learn about her first basketball team to coach.

The Nederland ISD hired the recent college graduate to replace Anna Benefield as its new high school girls head coach in the middle of the summer. But in a short period of time, the Lumberton alumna has found out a lot about the Bulldogs.

“They’re ready for a fresh start,” Abercrombie said. “They’ve come off a really rough couple of seasons and they’re trying to make a name for themselves. They’re ready to start fresh.”

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Nederland won only one district game last season and graduated all-district performer Christine Porterfield. Abercrombie, though, has one senior each at the backcourt (point guard Hayley McDaniel), wing (Faith Robertson) and frontcourt (center Cayleah Martin) returning who may be able to help the Bulldogs navigate through District 22-5A.

The highly competitive district, which has been dominated by the likes of Central and Lumberton in recent years, just got more competitive with the addition of longtime 6A member Port Arthur Memorial.

“This district is going to be very hard if they play slow basketball to compete,” Abercrombie said. “I want them to play fast in passing basketball. I don’t want anyone dribbling up and down the court. I want all five players getting their hands on the ball.”

The rookie coach graduated from Lumberton in 2008 and earned a scholarship to Bacone College in Oklahoma, where she played a season before suffering an injury. She came back home to Texas and got married, eventually graduating from Lamar one week before her now 10-month-old son was born.

But the love for the game has never left Abercrombie.

“All I’ve ever thought about was basketball,” she said. “I love the sport more than anything. So, I let my passion drive me in the way I coach. I’m very hands-on. I’m very proactive. I get out there and show them the moves. I’m up and down the court with them.

“I wasn’t one of the most skilled, but I had one of the biggest hearts for the game. I felt that pushed me and got me into the college scholarship point that I wanted to be.”

Abercrombie has three more seniors in Gabrielle Gaspard, Kyrstin Hanson and Breanna Wyble, but she’s looking for someone to take a leadership role and become more aggressive on the court. She does have some experienced players who have meshed well, she said.

She coaches using the motto “Heart over talent; teamwork over individuality.”

“I’m here to change this program and revamp it from the inside out,” she said. “My main thing is that I’ve been very meticulous over watching the girls who try out. We’re evaluating if they’re coachable, what their attitudes are like and how much heart they have, whether they give up if I give them something hard as opposed to watching their talent. If they have a basic athletic ability, I can work with that. That’s a foundation. If they don’t have the right attitude to be coachable, if they can’t take constructive criticism or they don’t have the heart, they’re not going to do what I’m asking them to do and be going in the same direction I want this program to be going.

I.C. Murrell: 721-2435. Twitter: @ICMurrellPANews

About I.C. Murrell

I.C. Murrell was promoted to editor of The News, effective Oct. 14, 2019. He previously served as sports editor since August 2015 and has won or shared eight first-place awards from state newspaper associations and corporations. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, grew up mostly in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and graduated from the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

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