PAXTON — Andrew Norris wasted little time stumping for Sadie Varnum.
Paxton’s coach said his senior forward, Varnum, was unequivocally the best player on any of the rural girls basketball teams in the Daily News’ coverage area; she should be the Small Schools Player of the Year.
Considering Norris and the Bobcats reeled off 91 victories, two district titles and a Final Four appearance in Varnum’s four years manning the middle, the results speak for themselves.
This past year was arguably Varnum’s best. She averaged 14.8 points per game, 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 steals, all while shooting 58% from the floor and 78% from the charity stripe.
She had just one game where she didn’t reach double-digit scoring figures.
“It’s nothing but fun,” Norris said. “She works hard. She’s easy to coach. She does what you ask her to do. She shows up when she’s supposed to. She’s goofy now; they’re all as goofy as they come, but the way they go out and whip people, you’d never know what they were like off the floor. They’re just a goofy, goofy, goofy bunch a kids, but when the basketball goes up, they’re ruthless.
“It’s been nothing but fun. She’s right up there with the all-time kids I’m gonna miss when they leave. The three kids that we’re losing this year, you can’t say anything bad about ’em.”
The Daily News sat down with Varnum, freshly minted as the Player of the Year, to talk about what made the Bobcats so effective, what’s next and the fine art of business.
So, you and your teammates put together yet another 20-win season this past season, but you came up short of Holmes County for the second straight year in the postseason. How would you evaluate what you all were able to accomplish?
I felt like we had a really successful record. We made it to state my sophomore year, and we didn’t go back my last two years but I still think we had really successful seasons.
How tough is Holmes County?
They’re a really good team. I feel like it just was never our game when we played them. I think we could’ve beat them. I think we were just as good as them; it just was never our night when we played them.
Still, you racked up over 90 wins during your varsity career. How were you all able to put together such an impressive four-year run.
It was definitely the team and our coaches. We knew how to have fun, but when we stepped on the court, we knew what we had to get done. We all push each other every day and encourage each other in practice to be better. It was just teamwork and our coach pushing us is what helped us.
How and when did you get into basketball?
My dad got me playin’ basketball. I’ve been playing since I was about 4. Then when we moved to Paxton in eighth grade, that’s when I became a Lady Cat. Ever since that, it’s been the most fun and amazing experience that I’ve had. It’s such an honor to be a Lady Cat.
Why did you stick with basketball? What did you enjoy most about it?
I think it was the girls. I love the sport, but it’s the people that I played with that really made me love it the way I did. We’ve been playing basketball and softball together, most of us, since we were about 8.
What’s next for you?
I had a lot of thought about playing basketball in college, but I ended up deciding that I want to go to Northwest Florida State for a year to finish my (associate degree), and then I’m gonna transfer to the University of West Florida to get my business degree.
That’s a good plan. What are you interested in doing with that degree?
I own a business right now where I sell clothes. It’s been far more successful than I thought it would. I’ve found that I’m very passionate about it. I’m hoping to maybe create my own clothes line one day.
What kind of clothes do you sell now?
I sell thrift clothes. I go to Goodwill and I find the high fashion pieces that are lost in there and then I resell them. I also just released my first product (Thursday) actually that I customized. It was a sweatshirt for summer.
What do you enjoy about thrifting?
I’ve been thrifting since I was younger. My granny and mom have always brought me to the thrift store. When I was little I would always say, ‘I don’t want to get those clothes. They’re old.’ But recently I’ve just found my passion in thrifting. I just love it. You never know what you’re gonna find when you go in there. You find something new every time.
What kind of lessons did you learn on the basketball court that you can apply to your business?
Hard work and dedication. I know I’m not always gonna be successful with what I sell or what I come out with. It’s just like on the court. We don’t always win, but we get back in the gym the next day and we work hard and work on what we need to get fixed to be successful the next time.
What was the most enjoyable part of your time at Paxton?
Probably the funnest part of the whole four years was going to state with everybody. Not only was I happy, but I just loved seeing my teammates happy and my coach happy after we had won that regional game and beat Holmes County when we were the underdogs. I will never forget the feeling I had on the court that night.”
And how did it feel?
It was amazing. It was undescribable.