By Gene Phelps
PONTOTOC – Nothing Marlee Hatcher does on a basketball court surprises her coach.
Pontotoc’s Bill Russell has watched his talented 5-foot-7 junior guard do it all offensively and defensively the past three seasons.
“She’s a weapon; she can do a lot offensively,” Russell said. “She’s got the range. She can take you off the dribble and take it to the basket.”
Hatcher has become the team’s go-to scorer. She had 26, including six 3-pointers, this week in a loss to Shannon and posted a career-high 33 points against Red Bay, Ala., earlier in the season.
“My perimeter game has gotten better,” Hatcher said. “I don’t get as nervous and I take my time. The good thing about this team is if I’m not hitting, somebody else can. Everybody can score.”
For Hatcher to play college ball – the Division I level – Russell believes his star needs to become a better on-ball defender.
“We have pushed her on defense this year,” he said. “She gets her hands on a lot of stuff. She anticipates a pass really well.”
Hatcher’s goal is to continue to improve as an all-around player, especially on the defensive side.
“I’m not making some of the same mistakes on defense that I made last year,” she said.
Mom on sideline
Hatcher’s mother, Wanda, played college basketball for Ole Miss under coach Van Chancellor (1978-81). Her daughter respects the coaching and advice she gets from her.
Wanda Hatcher is one of the Lady Warriors’ assistants and coaches the eighth grade girls basketball team.
“She’s pretty tough, but she’s been there and knows what it takes,” Marlee said. “She gives me a lot of good advice.”
Mom says it’s tough separating being a coach and parent.
“There’s a fine line,” Wanda said. “We talk about the mistakes and the good things.”
Hatcher believes her daughter has the tools to play on the next level.
“Marlee has the mental part,” she said. “She can see the court. She’s got to get better defensively. The college game is a lot tougher. You’ve got to be more of a complete player.”
Hatcher has been selected to play in this year’s Mississippi Association of Coaches North-South Juniors All-Star game, March 28 in Jackson.
Third-ranked Pontotoc plays at fifth-ranked Itawamba tonight.