Lots of people knew how big Alaina Coates would be, but Coates was not one of them.
As a young girl, Coates did not imagine that she would become a 6-foot-5, nationally recruited center and leader of a state championship girls basketball team.
She did not fathom the full scholarship to South Carolina.
Or being ranked 28th in the nation on the ESPNU HoopGurlz 100.
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Or becoming a McDonald’s All-America selection.
“I didn’t see it,” said Coates, who will lead Dutch Fork (28-0) on Friday as the Silver Foxes face Dorman in the Class 4A title game at Colonial Life Arena.
“We all saw this coming when we were little,” said Dutch Fork guard Kyla Wigfall, who has been Coates’ teammate and friend since middle school. “She was always really good, and we knew that she was going to be a star.”
But Coates is the opposite of a showboat, and not one to believe her own hype.
“When I was younger, I never really thought I was that great; I didn’t really know what they were talking about, I just enjoyed playing and I enjoyed playing with them,” Coates said.
Her attitude during her rise to stardom is part of what has makes her so easy to root for, coach Faye Norris said.
“Alaina does not like the spotlight; she’s not one that wants all that attention. And so she is always willing to share that attention with the girls around her,” Norris said.
Trying to get Coates to talk about herself is not much easier than trying to defend her in the low post.
She does not talk much about her average 20 points and 11 rebounds per game this season. Instead, she points out the strengths of her teammates who round out Dutch Fork’s success.
She credits the trust and camaraderie between her and her teammates for the Silver Foxes’ success more than her individual talent.
When asked about the best part of her high school career, Coates mentions not one of her individual accolades and achievements. She chooses to focus on the relationships she has built with players such as Wigfall and the connection they have on the court.
While Coates cheered Wigfall through a knee injury and rehab last season, Wigfall rooted for Coates as she navigated the college recruiting process. Wigfall said the Silver Foxes cannot help but be excited for Coates and everything that is ahead for her.
“It’s amazing to know somebody that talented, and we’re excited to see what the future holds for her,” Wigfall said.
But the only future Coates is thinking of is of her last high school basketball game Friday night.
“It’s kind of bittersweet, but it’s ending on a good note,” Coates said. “I’m happy, no matter how it ends, to be doing this with the girls I’m with because they mean so much to me.”
“It just feels really good. Hopefully, we can end this season with a perfect 29-0,” Coates said.