Breakfast of champs?

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 18, 2002

LORMAN &045; If you want to talk about the early success of the Lady Braves with Alcorn State head coach Shirley Walker, you got to start with breakfast.

Cold breakfast specifically.

&uot;I keep telling my players we all have to eat out of the same cereal bowl,&uot; Walker said. &uot;If we eat out of the same bowl, it’s a plus. If I can get them to continue to keep focus on the job at hand and work together, life will be all right.&uot;

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The analogy takes some time to develop, but it’s easy to see what Walker is preaching here: leadership and consistency.

Like the hidden prize deep down past all the flakes and raisins at the bottom of the box, Walker said the non-conference 5-3 record is a pleasant surprise.

After stubbing their toes out of the gate on a 1-3 start, the Lady Braves have rebounded to win four straight going into Friday’s matchup with Arkansas-Little Rock at 7 p.m.

&uot;I told the other coaches yesterday it’s been a long time since we’ve had this good of an early season record,&uot; Walker said. &uot;Teamwork is so important to the program, especially with these young minds.&uot;

Her 17-man roster consists of just two seniors. But that duo are floor leaders in guards Keairra Levy and Zandra Hall.

Hall got into early foul trouble in Monday’s 62-58 win in Beaumont at Lamar and took a seat on the bench.

Removing a court presence like Hall from the game would leave most teams scrambling and coaches warm around the collar.

But no gray hairs sprouted from Walker’s head, knowing Levy was still out there and getting good minutes from Hall’s backup Lady Jones.

&uot;Keairra seems to have said this year, ‘I know what I need to do to get the job done,’ and she’s been doing just that for us,&uot; Walker said. &uot;She (Levy) and Zandra are carrying that senior leadership for us.&uot;

The Lady Braves face a 2-7 Arkansas-Little Rock team, which has won its past two games by a combined 31 points, in Lorman Friday.

The Lady Trojans boast a quick, but careless team. They’ve committed an average of 23.3 turnovers a game to only 13.4 assists.

Arkansas-Little Rock does have an explosive scorer in Darci Cassidy, who averages 17.6 per night and worries Walker.

&uot;I know we have our work cut out for us,&uot; she said. &uot;Cassidy is a tremendous player and I’m sure the pros are tearing down the door to watch her.

&uot;With a good team and a young lady (Cassidy) of her caliber that can pay anywhere on the court it’ll be tough.&uot;

Adversity is nothing new to this Lady Brave bunch, however. In back-to-back wins over South Alabama and Lamar, Alcorn fought back from second-half deficits to big up wins.

Walker said it all reverts to players seeing eye-to-eye and being on the same page.

She gets afraid every year around this time that the squad will lose focus thinking about the holidays.

But borrowing what she’s gathered in 25 years of coaching at Alcorn, the responsibility does not rest on her shoulders alone.

&uot;I told them the other day, ‘When you leave this court go look up the word leadership in the dictionary and bring it back on the court the next day,’&uot; Walker said. &uot;I live on that word.&uot;

And as a result so do her players and assistant coaches.

If breakfast is considered the most important meal of the day, to Walker leadership embodies grits, eggs, bacon and a side of hashbrowns.

&uot;I try to pound into the kids’ minds with leadership, hard work and confidence in the team that win, lose or draw it’ll pay off,&uot; Walker said. &uot;This class is beginning to see that.&uot;