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Demopolis Lady Tigers up for player of the year honors

With this weeks Alabama Sports Writers Association announcement of players selected as finalist for this year’s Mr. and Ms. Basketball, there has arose a great deal of excitement on the campus of Demopolis High School.

For the first time in school history, DHS has a name on the ballot.

Junior Lady Tigers guard Gabrielle Essex is a name that has become well known throughout the Demopolis area this basketball season, but with this nomination, Essex establishes herself not as one of the best players in West Alabama, but rather one of the best in the state of Alabama.

This honor not only means a great deal to Essex, but also to her coach, team and school as well. “It’s a honor to have her selected,” DHS head basketball coach Tony Pittman said. “It’s an honor for this team and this school as well.”

Pittman has worked with Essex for three years now and has seen this young woman grow from a raw talented and very athletic freshman into a mature, skillful athlete.

“When I first saw Gabrielle, I knew she was an athlete,” Pittman said. “She was pure raw talent and with that kind of talent and her work ethic, there wasn’t much coaching involved. But there is always room for improvement for any athlete and I think Gabrielle understands that and has improved and will continue to improve over the next year.

Her improvement over the past year has not gone unnoticed, but there are many aspects of her game that have, aspects that; according to Pittman, really show why she deserves this honor.

” Gabrielle has gotten a lot of the attention this season for her scoring capabilities, but there is so much more about her that gets overlooked,” Pittman said. “What makes her a great player is not just her scoring but her defensive capabilities, leadership on the floor, rebounding, speed; I mean the girl can do it all.”

It’s clear that what coach Pittman says is true, but it hasn’t always been that way for Essex. According to Pittman, the difference this year is that Essex has allowed her years of hard work show on the court.

“Over the last year, Gabrielle has added a jump shot to her game that was considered relatively week last season,” Pittman said. “Last year she wouldn’t even shoot the jumper and this year it has become a dominant part of her game.”

But there is more to Essex than just a good jump shot. She has also discovered her leadership abilities on the court and this season she took control. Weather she wanted it or not, many players looked to her for answers this season.

“Gabrielle has done so much for this team this year that many people don’t even see,” Pittman said. “When she is on the court she is a leader. She has been a very demanding leader that forced other players to step up their level of play consistently throughout the season. But at the same time she has not forgotten the importants of being a team player.”

On March 17, Essex will travel to Birmingham to find out if she will be crowned as Ms. Basketball, but win or lose she will continue to be the champion she has been all season to her coach, team and school.