Birdsong maximizes talent
Published 8:11 pm Saturday, February 15, 2014
Nansemond-Suffolk Academy sophomore point guard Harper Birdsong keeps shining brighter and brighter, but the light has been strong for a long time.
She played a four-game week, winning all of the contests on Feb. 4, 6, 7 and 8. Her performances were well-rounded from the start, and she came on strongest toward the week’s end, leading to her nomination and win as the Duke Automotive-Suffolk News-Herald Player of the Week.
Birdsong said the snow delays had a role in the strong results from her and her team.
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“We all just really wanted to play, so I guess that fueled my fire,” she said.
After solid games against Norfolk Academy and Norfolk Collegiate School, she poured it on at Cape Henry Collegiate School on Friday, with 20 points, eight rebounds and six assists. The next day against visiting Bishop Sullivan Catholic High School, she shot 64 percent from the field for 22 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and four steals.
Birdsong was a starter and star for the Lady Saints last year as a freshman, something head coach Kim Aston said is rare.
“I guess I’ve been coaching 20 some years now, and during that time, just a handful of ninth-graders were able to do what she could do at that age,” Aston said.
In the eighth grade, Birdsong was already the first substitute off the bench.
“She really has a lot of the intangibles that you can’t even teach,” Aston said, citing great anticipation and court vision.
Birdsong came to Aston’s summer camp when she was in fifth grade. “Right when we saw her play, we knew that she was going to be something special at that point.”
This was right about the time Birdsong first began with the sport.
“I started in the YMCA league,” Birdsong said, in Suffolk. “I had a coach, Coach (Bo) Browne, and he was a really big influence.”
She played in that league for a couple of years, and her love for the sport blossomed from there.
“I liked being a point guard, and I like passing the ball and getting my teammates involved,” she said.
Birdsong was the ball girl for the NSA junior varsity team in sixth grade. She would watch games from the bench and even get to practice with the team.
“I just loved it so much, and so I started getting trainers, and in seventh grade, I played JV,” she said.
Her trainers included Nadine Domond and more recently, Anthony Chapelle, same as her teammate Jessica Pieroni.
Birdsong revealed an important relationship she has with pressure when asked if she felt any as a freshman star on the varsity squad.
“Not really,” she said. “We were all a really tight team, I knew the girls really well, and I like pressure. I like big games. I think we all like big games. We play better under pressure.”
Aston described what Birdsong does for NSA on the court.
“Offensively, I think she brings a little bit of everything,” Aston said. “She’s very unselfish for a kid who is able to score as easily as she is able to score.”
She currently averages about 16 points and seven assists per game. Aston indicated Birdsong has more room for improvement as a defender. The sophomore credited her experience last year on an Amateur Athletic Union team with Western Branch High School girls’ coach Troy Terry as helping her in that area.
This year, she hopes for more big, pressure-packed games as NSA enters the postseason, and after high school, “I want to play Division I basketball, if I can,” she said.
Seeing what kind of player that little fifth-grader has become, Bo Browne said, “I couldn’t be happier. She was very, very athletic, very, very talented.”
But he praised her self-motivation to use those traits and improve through hard work.
“She’s maximized what God gave her, which is really cool,” he said.