Trinitys Archer named Player of the Year

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 31, 2006

Now that the final horn has sounded and Mallory Archer turned in her uniform for the final time in her high school career, she&8217;s got a question for her coaches, parents, friends and anyone else close to her.

So what now?

She&8217;s led her team in every category for a while now, carried her Trinity Episcopal team on her shoulders since she was playing in junior high and made enough big shots in games to give everyone a favorite memory. But as a good-sized guard who can shoot from long range, handle the ball and play defense, she wants to know if she&8217;s attractive to college coaches.

Email newsletter signup

Some are interested. Some juco, some small college, some small Division I. It&8217;s not an easy choice &8212; if it was, you&8217;d be reading about it right here.

&8220;She&8217;s going to play ball,&8221; said her dad, Marc Archer. &8220;I told her I don&8217;t think (Tennessee head coach) Pat Summitt is going to call, but we&8217;re going and looking at different schools. Mallory, for some reason, always thinks I have the answer for everything. It was hard to get people to come and watch her. She had a heck of a state tournament. If you don&8217;t get them there to see it, they don&8217;t know what to think.&8221;

It&8217;s not unheard of for someone from the MPSA ranks to play college ball, but it is uncommon. It&8217;s like anything else &8212; if you put up the numbers and play at a level that could be successful at the next level, it doesn&8217;t matter where you come from. Archer did it all for the Lady Saints this season at every position on the floor and led the team to a third-place finish at the state tournament.

Archer is this year&8217;s All-Metro Player of the Year.

&8220;My roommate coaches at Pearl River (Community College), and I had told him he may want to look at her,&8221; Columbia Academy head coach Reid McCay said. &8220;They&8217;re recruiting her. I think she&8217;s big enough at the guard spot, and she handles the ball well enough and is physical. Even someone a little quicker is not going to take it from her. She&8217;s a very instinctive player.&8221;

That&8217;s why the question next month may not be if she plays at the next level but where. If so, she&8217;ll join become the at least the fifth straight Player of the Year to play at the college level.

It&8217;s more about connections and making the right fit with college coaches nowadays than with anything else. Trinity head coach Melanie Hall set out letters and tapes on Archer&8217;s behalf to get attention, and everyone&8217;s efforts may pay off next month after national signing day.

There are seven showing interest now, Archer said. From here, it&8217;s on to visits and meeting with coaches to find out where to go from here.

&8220;This is the end for me, and I&8217;ve been basically doing this my whole life,&8221; Archer said. &8220;Even though I&8217;ll be playing next year, it&8217;ll be totally different. It&8217;ll be a big change but hopefully a good one. I just want to play. I want to go somewhere that has a good program. I could go somewhere and sit the bench for a couple of years, but I think I&8217;ll go somewhere I can play a lot at first because I just want to play.&8221;

Whomever gets her, they&8217;ll get a player that&8217;s unselfish, has tremendous heart and drive and has developed into a complete player since making the transition up to varsity basketball as a freshman and playing right away.

It&8217;s been a long, hard road since then. But she&8217;s gone from being just a shooter and scorer to someone who can do just about anything. This past season her numbers show it &8212; 16.7 points and nine rebounds per game, 91 steals and 38 3-pointers.

&8220;She told me yesterday, &8216;You&8217;re going to miss me,&8217;&8221; Hall said. &8220;I said, &8216;Yes, I am.&8217; I&8217;m just thankful for the opportunity to coach somebody like that. I just think she&8217;s become more of a complete player. This year she could play any position. I think that speaks volumes for her and about her game being such a versatile player. &8221;

Yet if you ask her, Archer will tell you it&8217;s her defense that has come the farthest. Even during those freshman and sophomore years, she was a shooting guard and the team&8217;s threat to score, but her defense and ball handling abilities lagged behind.

But she adjusted. With any Hall team at Trinity, the Lady Saints won games with their defense. And Archer was right there with them.

&8220;I was much more of a scorer than a defender,&8221; Archer said. &8220;I hated defense, I think, because it made me work. All I wanted to do was shoot. Now I like defense more than shooting the ball. I don&8217;t know when it changed. I love to shoot the ball, but I love playing defense.&8221;

And whoever gets her will get a player who was perhaps more clutch than anything. Archer was the person who hit important shots late in the game, nailed the clutch free throws against ACCS at the state tournament and literally put the game on her shoulders.

&8220;All teams need that type of young lady &8212; when the going gets tough, give me the ball,&8221; Adams Christian head coach John Gray. &8220;She had that ability and confidence when no one else wanted to step forward and take the ball. She was willing to do it. When we weren&8217;t playing them, I enjoyed watching her. When we were playing them, I didn&8217;t enjoy watching her.&8221;

It&8217;s her parents who Archer said have had the biggest influence on her game. Specifically, it was her dad that pushed her in the driveway after practice to get better at her game. She jokes he&8217;s spent thousands of dollars sending her away to summer basketball camps to do just that.

But Marc said he&8217;s often found Mallory out in the driveway shooting alone &8212; either by flashlight or by the headlights on her car.

&8220;My dad has really pushed me a lot more than anyone,&8221; Archer said. &8220;He can&8217;t stand me being lazy. Stuff a lot of people get away with, my dad doesn&8217;t allow it. He&8217;s been a big reason why I&8217;m as good as I am. I used to be a big softball player, but Daddy put a basketball goal up in the yard when I was young. I would stay in the driveway, and Daddy would get out there with me.&8221;

Yet Archer is like any other athlete who college coaches are looking at &8212; she&8217;s her own worst critic. She says her biggest regret is not working as hard as she could have &8212; and not a loss here or a poor performance there during a game.

What she can do now is the reason college coaches are interested in her services. If there&8217;s any reason why colleges should be interested, it&8217;s stories like the Hall remembers.

In junior high, Archer reported to the district tournament with 101-degree fever and her cheeks purple.

She insisted on playing and led the low-seeded Lady Saints to the championship game.

&8220;She fought hard,&8221; Hall recalled. &8220;It&8217;s all about heart. And she&8217;s got it. Right then and there I knew she was something special.&8221;