by Andre Mitchell
Special to the Tri-State Defender
This year, the girl’s basketball team at Hickory Ridge Middle School is in the midst of building towards a special season. The Lady Wildcats stand atop of their division, Large Area 2, undefeated and fresh off a championship run in the MLK Invitational Tournament held during Thanksgiving week.
This may be a surprise to some, but for the team’s faithful few and seventh year coach, Gwendolyn Martin, this has been a program in the making. And while every coach would like to lead his or her team to a city and state championship, Coach Martin has a more immediate goal.
“Most of all, I want my players to be disciplined on and off the court,” said Martin.
A woman of strong faith and upbringing, Martin is originally from Washington, D.C. and came to Memphis by way of Bethel College, where she ran the point guard position during her days on the hardwood. A 20-year veteran of the sideline, Martin has lead teams from the most humble beginnings, various recreational and/or church leagues, YMCA leagues, elementary intramural leagues, and now middle school. She credits Oprah Winfrey for helping her to stay positive in today’s society and counts legendary women’s basketball coach, Pat Summitt, as a coaching model.
|The Lady Wildcats of Hickory Ridge Middle School are standing tall early. (Courtesy photo)|
Martin is proud of the start her team has gotten off to but doesn’t want her players to get lax in any way. The season is still young and the level of competition in Memphis is improving in girl’s middle and high school basketball.
“We simply work with the kids in our district and that’s it! We try to be competitive and this year, my team leaders, Bionka Massie and Ebony Shaw, are leading the charge to get out goals accomplished…a city and sectional (state) championship.”
Martin teaches Special Education and has an affinity for Language Arts, which also helps her to teach the game of life through basketball and books. She instinctively stresses the importance of reading, literature and communication to her players, knowing that the real championship contest comes much later as they “grow through life” and mature.
So far this season, they seem to be getting the message loud and clear.