Sports

Three rings and counting for LR star

The State's top 5 Girls Morgan Stroman, Lower Richland HIgh
The State's top 5 Girls Morgan Stroman, Lower Richland HIgh

When she was in the ninth grade, Morgan Stroman made a bold statement: She said she wanted four high school basketball state championship rings and a spot on the McDonald’s All-America team.

She’s almost there.

The rosters for the 2009 McDonald’s All-American Game were announced Wednesday on ESPNU. Stroman, a 6-foot-2 senior, found out on her 18th birthday last week that she had made the team. The game will be held April 1 in Miami.

“I’m excited about the whole experience,” said Stroman, who was named homecoming queen in the fall and has signed with Miami. “I’ve just never been a person who was like, ‘I did this or I did that.’ Once I heard the news (about being selected), I was happy. I was jumping up and down. I mean, that’s a golden chance, and I looked up to players (who played in the game).

“But after all that, I realized that I just can’t stop playing ball now. I got one goal, and I’ve got to work on getting one more.”

The Diamond Hornets took their first step Monday toward claiming their fourth championship — and allowing Stroman to accomplish her goals — with a 64-30 victory against Eastside in a first-round playoff game.

Those who know Stroman or have played against her say she is capable of accomplishing everything she wants. Stroman, the S.C. Basketball Coaches Association’s Class 3A player of the year, is averaging 15.8 points and nine rebounds a game.

Since her freshman season, Stroman and the Diamond Hornets have a record of 99-6. They have won 79 consecutive games against instate teams.

Former Dorman coach Joy Couch, whose teams have lost to Lower Richland in the Class 4A title game three times, said Stroman is successful because she is a team player.

“I saw her grow a lot through the years,” said Couch, who is now the athletics director at Converse College. “She seems to always be a team player. She has never, ever seem to care whole a lot about the glory.”

And the bigger the game, the better she plays, said Ridge View coach Terrence Gibson, whose team played in the same region as the Diamond Hornets before Lower Richland moved down to Class 3A this season.

“If LR is playing bad, she steps up her game. If they are playing well, she steps aside and lets everybody else play,” he said. “She makes big shots, and she always does something to change the outcome ... of the game.”

Stroman has been doing so since she began playing at one of the local recreational centers in southeast Richland County.

She joined an AAU team when she was 10. Her coach, Anthony Toney, noticed her potential immediately.

“Raw, tall but real athletic,” he said. “She loves the game.”

What makes Stroman unique is her ability to handle the basketball. Though she plays in the post, Stroman can dribble like a guard and make shots from the perimeter.

“From my standpoint, she makes you prepare differently,” said A.C. Flora coach Patti Moore, whose team plays at Riverside in the second round of the Class 3A playoffs tonight. “You don’t see a post player block shots, rebound, dribble the length of the court, make a pass for an assist or whatever.

“What we usually see are post players who are strong players but don’t run the floor well. With the speed that Morgan has and her pure athleticism, it makes you prepare. Morgan likes to shoot from outside, too, and that’s also hard to get ready for.”

And it’s something Stroman has worked on, especially this season.

“It’s not all about the points, but the other stuff I do, especially with the team we have,” she said. “It is the rebounds, the steals, the blocks and assists for a post player.”

Whether Stroman can accomplish the second of her goals will be decided in the final two weeks of the season. Regardless, her impact on girls basketball in the state will be remembered.

“She deserves everything she gets,” Couch said. “She has given so much to South Carolina high school basketball for a lot of years. It couldn’t have happened to a finer person.”

Reach Davis at (803) 771-8442.

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