JOHNSTON, S.C. - Nancy Derrick is the reason the people at Wardlaw Academy in Edgefield County are thinking about a South Carolina Independent Schools Association state title.
Arguably the South Carolina area's best player, McCormick's Scealita Drennon not withstanding, she is only a freshman.
The 14-year-old may be the dream student-athlete. A 5-foot-8 point guard, she averages 28 points, nine assists, nine rebounds and 8.3 steals per game. Academically, she is a straight-A student who is No. 1 in her class. As a seventh-grader, she took the SAT and was an NCAA qualifier with a score of over 700 before the test was re-centered to 820.
"It's a real unusual situation," Wardlaw coach Derrick Gibson said.
Derrick, who has started on the varsity since the seventh grade, has led Wardlaw to a 12-0 start. She went over the 1,000-point mark in her career Tuesday night in a 62-28 win over Wyman King. She personally outscored Wyman King, 31-28, and recorded a triple-double with 11 rebounds and 10 assists while just missing a quadruple-double with eight steals as well.
She came out of the game early in the fourth quarter.
"It would have been nice," said Derrick of her first career quadruple double. "I always want to play but understand why he (coach Dennis Gibson) took me out. He wanted to give some of our other players a chance to play."
Coach Dennis Gibson said Derrick is the school's best athlete since current Strom Thurmond football star Ryght Jordan was at Wardlaw. Jordan, who led Wardlaw Academy to consecutive state title games as a freshman and sophomore, announced he plans to intend the University of South Carolina this week.
"To be as young as she is her understanding of the game is incredible," Gibson said. "She doesn't have to be told time and time again to do something. She's very devoted. She works a lot on her own with weightlifting, shooting and ball handling."
Derrick who holds 16 school records is just 336 points away from becoming the school's all-time leading scorer. Maria Powell (1977-81) holds the school record with 1,336 points.
Wardlaw went 20-6 last season and advanced to the state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion Calhoun Academy. As a 7th-grader, Wardlaw went 15-9 and advanced to the state quarterfinals with Derrick in the lineup.
Derrick's scoring average has risen from nine points per game as a seventh grader; to 18.4 points per game as an eighth grader to her current total of 28.5 points per game. She has scored 30 or more points in eight of Wardlaw's 12 games this season.
Gibson said there is no animosity on the team.
"The other girls realize her capabilities, there is no resentment," Gibson said. "They look to her on the floor; even as a seventh grader, they did."
The freshman sensation knows she still has a lot of work to do if she hopes to get a college scholarship in the 21st century, 2000. She has seen some great competition when the team attended basketball camps at UNC-Wilmington the past two summers.
Gibson said the team has lost 21 of 22 games at the camp. Derrick said she doesn't remember that one win but coach Gibson said she held her own with the rest of the players in the camp.
"I haven't been in this long, but other coaches and scouts have told me they are interested in her," Gibson said. "That she can play Division I basketball."
On Monday, Derrick led the Wardlaw girls to an one-point win over the Wardlaw jayvee boys team in a scrimmage. Her favorite player is Michael Jordan because she said he's the best and that's what she's striving to be.
"You can never be too good," Derrick said. "You can always improve. I enjoy scoring points and playing defense, but I also like to dish to my teammates."
Her self-motivation makes her a joy to coach. Coach Gibson said he doesn't expect Derrick to get bored with regular season play even though she might not have any competition. He expects Wardlaw to go into the state tournament undefeated.
"Not this particular one because her work habits are so good," Gibson said. "I'm very proud of her. I'm glad other people are starting to realize, too."