In five varsity seasons at Sterlington High, point guard Derek Price has helped the Sterlington Panthers rise from also-rans to district champions.
When Sterlington observed Senior Night prior to last Friday's regular season finale against Lake Providence, coach Kevin Caballero was in no mood to celebrate. Along with Price, five-year starter Matt Allred and three-year starters Brandon Douglas and Lance Richard have been the driving force of the program. Going out with a bang, the seniors led Sterlington to its first district title in 18 years this season.
Price and Sterlington assistant coach Jonathan Crew go even further back.
“Derek started out with coach Crew in elementary school,” Caballero said. “He came in here and played as an eighth grader and has been starting since his freshman year.”
Surrounded by more prolific scores (Douglas, Allred and Richard), Price is the under-appreciated member of the longtime quartet. His value isn't truly recognized until he's not there. For example, Price reported late from football where he was a starting cornerback as a sophomore and a senior.
“You can see a difference in the team when Derek's not here,” Caballero said. “When he was playing football, we just didn't have that zip in practice.”
Caballero says the personable and upbeat Price has the ideal personality for a point guard.
“Derek's always talking and encouraging somebody,” Caballero said. “He's been like that since he was a freshman. You need that at the point guard position.”
Price plans to enter the Air Force after graduation, a decision his coach fully supports.
“I think, unlike a lot of kids, Derek has an idea of what he wants to do,” Caballero said. “I think (joining the Air Force) is a wonderful idea. The Army has done wonders for my son. He has a great wife from Colorado and I have a beautiful granddaughter.
“It will take a little growing up, but I think Derek's up for the challenge.”
For now, Price is ready to face the challenge of helping the Panthers advance in the state playoffs.
NOWN: When did you start playing basketball?
Derek Price: I started playing organized ball with coach Crew in the Osterland rec league when I was 8 and 9.
NOWN: What are your favorite and least favorite aspects of basketball?
Price: My favorite part is the crossover.
My least favorite part is taking a charge.
NOWN: What was your reaction when you heard that Ferriday beat Homer Monday night, making the Panthers district champs?
Price: I couldn't believe it, really.
Page 2 of 3 - We had been practicing for Homer and it was like, 'You mean we don't have to play them again?'
We earned (the district championship). We've been second place since my freshman year, so it wouldn't be right for us to go out without a district championship.
I was kind of disappointed because I wanted to play Homer again. They out-played us and out-hustled us the last time we played.
We still might get to play them again, though.
NOWN: Did the loss to Homer help the Panthers get refocused for the playoffs?
Price: Yes. We went into the Homer game thinking we had it won. If we take just one team lightly now, that's going to be it.
Coach Cab always says, 'Win your last game,' and that's what we're trying to do.
NOWN: What's it going to take for the Panthers to make a run in the playoffs?
Price: We're going to have to play as a team and we're going to have to defend hard. They always say defense wins championships.
NOWN: Who is an up-and-coming player to watch for the Panthers in the years ahead?
Price: Jaylon King, a freshman, plays football and basketball. He's a talented athlete and comes from a good home. I think he's going to do good in both sports.
NOWN: What is the biggest improvement you have made since your eighth grade year?
Price: My biggest improvement has been my decision-making. I'm not forcing things now — I'm letting it come to me.
NOWN: What was it like, playing varsity ball as an eighth grader?
Price: I couldn't really play because I was so small. Everybody was so much bigger back then. I was running around and didn't really know what was going on.
NOWN: What are you going to miss the most about playing high school basketball?
Price: I'm going to miss playing with my teammates and competing with them.
NOWN: Outside of basketball, what is something you hope to accomplish during your senior year?
Price: Outside of graduating, I just want to make my supporters proud.
NOWN: What are your future plans?
Price: I plan on going into the Air Force.
NOWN: How did you become interested in the military?
Price: I have a buddy, Michael Wilson, who just went in and I went to Barksdale and visited him. From watching everybody and talking to everybody over there, it seems like a good career.
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