For much of her high-school career at Legacy Charter, Cortnie Vees wanted a girls basketball program.
As time went on, Vees, who plays other sports for the Eagles including softball and volleyball, came closer to graduation — without a basketball team.
But, in her senior year, she got her wish.
This winter, Legacy has rolled out its first girls basketball team. Vees is joined by several girls eager to play the game.
Vees’ basketball experience is limited to playing on the street with her brothers. She, like many of the girls in the program, has never played organized basketball before.
Starting from scratch with several of the girls, though, is a challenge coach Blessing Freeman is embracing.
“It’s actually made me better as a coach because it’s taught me that you have to start from the basics,” Freeman said.
Before the season began, Freeman first had to recruit players. At the beginning of the school year, she started holding basketball interest meetings. She made announcements and put flyers up around the school.
Sometimes, Freeman just asked girls she met if they wanted to play, even recruiting six volleyball players to join the team. Only one of the players, freshman Tya Freeman, has prior experience with organized basketball. She played for Upward Basketball, AAU and currently gets personal coaching.
“I just want my team to get better; this is my first year coming to this school,” Tya Freeman said. “It’s like a family here, so I just want to see (my team) get better, since it’s their first time.”
Blessing Freeman played basketball for Mississippi State. Later, she coached basketball at Southwest Baptist University, a Division II School in Missouri. In January, she moved to Florida to marry her husband. She became an assistant athletic director at Orangewood Christian School in Maitland.
“I know we’re still learning the rules of the game and concepts of basketball, but I think we’ll be better than expected once we learn the game.” — Coach Blessing Freeman
But she would soon return to basketball.
“I heard about (Legacy) trying to start a girls program this year, and I missed coaching, so I got with the (athletic director) here and talked it out and we went from there,” Blessing Freeman said.
She now works full time at Legacy as assistant dean.
“Coach is really good,” said Chloe Guy, a senior on the team. “She’s always positive, so that helps me want to go to practice.”
Blessing Freeman is working to instill confidence in several players who show promise.
“I’ve been teaching them hard work and 100% effort,” she said. “I think a lot of times they come out a little bit nonchalant, but I just want 100% effort and hard work from the girls.”
Some players still are learning to be aggressive and get used to contact. With six volleyball players on the roster, some lack experience in contact sports.
The Eagles (1-3) beat Lake Mary Preparatory School, but lost twice to Orlando Christian Prep and Central Florida Christian Academy.
The players hope to continue improving so they will be ready to face some of the teams again later this season.
“Basketball has always been something I wanted to learn, but we never had the opportunity,” Guy said.
Overall, Blessing Freeman thinks the team will make gains by the end of the its first season.
“I know we’re still learning the rules of the game and concepts of basketball,” she said. “But I think we’ll be better than expected once we learn the game.”
Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected].