KF puts freshman at center of it all

Published 7:57 pm Saturday, January 22, 2011

If nine of the 10 girls basketball squads in the Southeastern District aren’t already tired of facing King’s Fork center Khadedra Croker, they all have a lot of time to get to that point.

Croker: King’s Fork freshman center Khadedra Croker piled up 11 points, 12 rebounds and 11 blocks Friday night at Hickory for her ninth triple-double of the season. The Lady Bulldogs have won five straight games after starting the season 4-8.

Croker, a 6-foot-3 freshman, is making a basketball rarity, the triple-double, routine as she’s already posted nine such games in KF’s 17 this season, all being the combination of points, rebounds and blocked shots.

“She started off a little slow in the first, I’d say four games or so,” said KF head coach Maurice Fofana.

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Croker’s first varsity game back in early December, KF’s opener at Wilson – a program that makes regular trips to the Eastern Region Tournament – Croker tallied 11 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks. As the season’s turned out, it was a slow start for her.

“The game at this level is much faster. Coming up from the JV and even AAU, she played for a 14-and-under team last year, it’s a big difference. Now, team’s usually have someone the same size as you. No doubt she’s done very well though. She works hard in practice,” Fofana said.

Croker’s a lefty, a natural advantage for any basketball player and especially one for a shot-blocker. At the same time, thanks to some of the work her coach praises, Croker already displays the ability to finish offensive moves and make shots around the hoop with her right hand.

Likely from the mix of hard work and natural talent, Croker does something else very well which is unique for a center getting so many boards and blocks. She stays out of foul trouble most of the time.

Swatting away shots with the left hand, or forearm or elbow occassionally, is another definite advantage there.

“I’d say (Croker) being a lefty is good for six or eight points in a game before the other team even realizes it and tries to adjust,” Fofana said.

Even if the defense does a fine job adjusting, she’s 6-foot-3, so sometimes no amount of coaching or strategy makes a difference.

“I feel I’ve been getting better,” Croker said after KF’s 43-37 win at Hickory Friday evening, the fifth straight win for the Lady Bulldogs after starting the season 4-8.

“I think we’ve all gotten better during the season. Everyone looks for their teammates and everyone here works hard because we all like to win,” she said.

“When we had a couple straight losses earlier in the season, we, the players, got together and talked about what we had to do,” Croker said.

In addition to being a humble teammate, often a tougher lesson for a player, let alone a freshman, to grasp than how to go after rebounds without fouling or how to use your weak hand, there are certain tangible advantages the Lady Bulldogs have thanks to having a supreme shot-blocker in the lane.

“Otherwise, we’re so small,” Fofana said. “She allows us to take chances. We press, trap, rotate on defense and if we get beat, we can depend on her.”

The Lady Bulldogs and the rest of the Southeastern District have three more basketball seasons to depend on having Croker in the middle.