EDGEFIELD, S.C -- This will be Nancy Derrick's last season swimming in the little pond.
The big fish from Wardlaw Academy, which has a student body of 70 students, used her summers to turn heads of major colleges and her school year to break down opponents in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association.
Derrick signed in mid-November to play with nationally ranked Auburn after wooing Tiger coaches in last summer's Elite Camp.
"It'll be different, but that's really what I wanted," said Derrick, a 5-foot-8 guard. "I've done the small-school thing and now I'm really looking forward to meeting people with different backgrounds and personalities. And basketball, that's the same anywhere."
For the 17-year-old Derrick, who has started since her eighth-grade year, this season for the Lady Patriots will be unlike any other. Wardlaw went 91-1 in the past three seasons, claiming the Class A state title her freshman year and the Class AA state championships her sophomore and junior seasons.
She averaged 24 points, eight rebounds and seven assists last season for the 34-0 Lady Patriots. But with a bulk of Derrick's support group gone, times have been tough for coach Dennis Gibson and Wardlaw, which has lost two games already after dropping only one in three seasons.
Derrick poured in 39 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 70-47 loss to Class AAAA public school Spring Valley, then turned around and helped Wardlaw knock off Class AA public school Chapin 29-27. Derrick pumped in 24 of the team's 29 points, including the game-winning jumper at the buzzer.
Derrick repeated the feat last week against Thomas Sumter, scoring only 16 points but netting a short jumper at the buzzer to give Wardlaw the 29-27 win.
"She's got to have to score a lot more than she used to when she had other girls around her," Gibson said. "We need more of her than before and she needs to be more consistent. This will prepare her a little for the next level."
Derrick has 3,172 points, 1,001 assists, 1,101 rebounds and 770 steals in her career, leading Wardlaw to a 127-18 mark.
Even with such stellar numbers, critics thought it would be hard for her to impress Division I schools. But the thought of transferring to a larger school never entered Derrick's mind.
Instead, Derrick and Gibson used the summer time to showcase her talents on the major stage. Derrick started played in summer tournaments her sophomore year and attracted attention immediately. The senior had thoughts of signing with South Carolina or Clemson, but needed just one trip to Auburn to decide her future.
"Nobody cares where you go to high school," Derrick said. "For the people that know what they're talking about, it doesn't matter. If they see you during the summer and see that you can play, they won't care where you play high school. Auburn is just a perfect fit for me."
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