Making a full recovery from knee surgery, Bastrop senior guard Javia Kennedy is playing her best basketball down the stretch.
Rarely do coaches and fans find common ground. However, when evaluating Bastrop High senior Javia Kennedy, the criticism is the same — she is too unselfish.
Kennedy often passes up good shots in an effort to set up better shots. It's not that she can't shoot. She would just rather create opportunities for her teammates than score.
"I have been trying to get Javia to score more," Bastrop coach Gerline Guillaume said. "Especially when people are double teaming her, she tries to get the ball to one of our younger players."
It's not the first time Kennedy has been advised to take more shots.
"People have always told me that I am a pass-first player," Kennedy said. "People are always telling me to shoot the ball, but that's not me."
Kennedy and Casual Williams, the Lady Rams' only two seniors, flip-flop between the point and shooting guard. While the two veterans have shouldered the scoring load, Kennedy has made a conscious effort to get more people involved in the offense.
"If me and Cassie are the only ones shooting, everybody is going to be lost next year when we're not here," Kennedy said. "I want to see everybody on the score sheet."
Kennedy missed her entire junior season after tearing an ACL while playing for Mississippi Heat Southern Phenoms during an AAU tournament in July of 2016.
Understandably, she needed some time to work her way back.
"The biggest thing for me was getting back in shape," Kennedy said, who earned All-District 2-4A honors as a sophomore. "It took a while to build up my endurance."
Wearing a bulky brace on her surgically-repaired knee, Kennedy was unaware that she often played with a limp early on.
"When I finally got back on the court, I wasn't worried about re-injuring my knee," Kennedy said. "Coach GG kept asking me if my knee was okay, and would tell me that I was favoring it. I guess I was subconsciously, but I didn't realize it."
As she bats down a pass at midcourt on the press, tracks down the loose ball and accelerates on the break, it's clear that Kennedy has made a full recovery.
"Javia has been playing really well," Guillaume said. "She hasn't been wearing her brace at all for the past month or so. She's been playing hard and tough. A lot of times when people tear their ACL, they baby it because they're scared. Javia didn't show any signs of fear."
Kennedy has faced more adversity upon returning to the court. As a sophomore, Kennedy earned helped the Lady Rams reach the quarterfinals before falling to Edna Arr in overtime.
Bastrop has struggled the past two seasons. Upon returning from the injury, Kennedy suddenly found herself in a position of leadership.
"It's been a challenge," Kennedy admitted. "I am used to being the youngest person on the team, now I'm the oldest."
Kennedy hasn't shied away from her role as a mentor on a young, inexperienced team.
"I have tried to be positive," Kennedy said. "I talk to the other players one-on-one and encourage them. I talk to them about the little mistakes."
Kennedy says player development at the junior high level is the key to the Lady Rams' return to prominence.
"I think it starts in junior high," said Kennedy, who has played AAU ball since age 9. "The fundamentals — rebounding, dribbling, pivoting — should be taught in junior high. Kids don't have the fundamentals down by the time they get here. When I was in junior high, I already had the fundamentals down. When a kid comes in as a freshman, the coach should be able to teach them to transition to high school. The high school coach shouldn't have to go back and teach fundamentals."
At No. 33 in the power rankings with three games remaining, the Lady Rams (6-16) are sitting squarely on the postseason bubble.
"Regardless of whether or not we make the playoffs, I want to see improvement these last few games," Kennedy said. "We need to finish strong."
After graduation, Kennedy plans to major in Biology at Xavier University of Louisiana. A 3.9 student with a 27 ACT, Kennedy's long-term ambition is to become a surgeon or a physical therapist. Ironically, the injury helped determine her career choice.
"When I tore my ACL and started going to rehab, I realized I wanted to go into the medical field," Kennedy said. "If I become a doctor, I plan to be an orthopedic surgeon. If I become a physical therapist, I would like to help people rehab their injuries."
For now, Kennedy is content channeling her injuries into the final few games of her high school basketball career.
"I just want to leave a good example," Kennedy said.
It would be say that Kennedy has achieved her objective of being a positive role model. After all, the worst thing her critics have found to say is that she doesn't shoot enough.