Photo | Mike Kittrell
At last season’s year-ending team banquet, UMS-Wright girls’ basketball head coach Terry Canova challenged his returning players to improve their respective games by spending extra time in the gym.
Elizabeth Meador took the challenge to heart.
Established as the Bulldogs’ defensive star, Meador wanted to improve her offensive skills, so she spent hour after hour in the UMS gym during the offseason working on that aspect of her game, taking shot after shot after shot.
“The quote I gave them was, ‘We’ve got enough shooters; we need some makers.’ I need you to start texting me throughout the offseason and let me know how many shots you’re making,” Canova said, recalling his challenge.
He had no idea how seriously Meador, a junior guard on this season’s team, would take the directive.
“I get a random text message from her a week or so later and it reads, ‘663.’ So I texted her back and I said, ‘Elizabeth, you took 663 shots?’ And she said ‘No, I took 1,000; I made 663,’’’ Canova said, smiling when recalling the moment. “So, that was the first one and it kind of just went like that. I don’t know if she had another 663 day, but there were a whole lot of 200s and 300s. When you go in the gym, it takes some time to make 300 shots.”
The work is paying off. Meador, who is joined on the team by her sister Ameila, a sophomore, was charged last season with guarding the opponents’ best offensive players. She continues to do that this season, but has added some offensive punch of her own, especially from behind the 3-point arc. In a recent game in the school’s William Mitchell Memorial Tournament against West Florida, Meador defended the opponent’s best shooter, keeping her in well below her average production, while at the same time offering one 3-pointer in all four quarters for 12 points, making four of six shot attempts, all from 3-point range.
“Our last game of the season [last year], it was against Marbury, and the player I had to guard was the hardest player I’ve ever had to guard in my life,” Meador said. “It bugged me. I did everything I possibly could and it still wasn’t enough to win. So, then I just kept going back and kept going back because I didn’t want to end up how we ended the season last year.
“There were some days when I was in there for an hour or other days when I was in there for four hours. Some days I would set up chairs when there was no one there to defend me, and I would just dribble through them. A lot of time I would be on the [shooting] gun [which sets a pace for the number of shots in a set time period] and just constantly shooting, no stopping. Every time I would write down how many I made on my arm.”
Canova said, “I gave her a dry-erase board but that wasn’t cool enough, so she kept writing them down on her arm. It looked like she had this long tattoo on her arm.”
Canova said Meador’s work has not gone unnoticed by her teammates.
“The thing that has made Elizabeth a difference-maker with us is her work ethic,” he said. “Getting in the gym, putting in the extra time. That’s it in a nutshell. What it has done is it has made her an outstanding 3-point shooter. But what it has also done is her teammates have seen the success that she’s had and so now we’ve got more kids who are coming in and putting in that extra time.
“Last year for us, she’s our best defender. So, for 32 minutes a game we had her guarding the best player on the other team and also trying to be a scorer. Now that she’s become a dynamic scorer for us, now she’s guarding the other team’s best player and we expect her to make some tough baskets each game. … The [score]book will show her scoring 12 points, but in a coach’s brain, that’s a 25-, 26-point game because you have to take away the points that she didn’t let [the opponent’s best scorer] get as well.”
Meador said she started playing basketball in the first or second grade, mainly because her friends played and it was a way to spend more time with them. But she noticed as she continued playing the game took on a more important role for her.
A 5-foot-7 guard, she said she gets satisfaction from limiting the success of the opponents’ best scorers, but now that she is adding points to her team’s total as well, the feeling is enhanced. That feeling hits its peak during those times when she is in the gym alone, taking shot after shot.
“I feel my energy picking up and I start counting aggressively when I start making shots,” she said. “I try to speed up when I start making them and I get the gun going faster and faster.”
Though she is counted on to add to the team’s offensive production this season, she has not cut back on her defensive responsibilities. In fact, she said, she’d rather make a good defensive stop than a 3-point basket.
“I think it’s all effort and really wanting to win,” she said of why she enjoys playing defense. “I didn’t really love individual training stuff with other people; I don’t think that’s what helped me. I think it was more individual effort and wanting to win the game and wanting to do more. I think it’s because defensively I have a higher role than normal. I have to guard the [other team’s] best player, so I’m more focused on that than offense.”
Often, Meador was joined in the gym by her father, who would play one-on-one games against her or rebound her shots and pass the ball back to her. There’s also the competition in practice and at home against Amelia. Canova said their youngest sister, Mary Katherine (M.K.), 5, “is going to be the best one of them all.” There’s even a brother, 2-year-old Bo. With parents Bo and Chase right there encouraging them all.
“Too often parents don’t treat their daughters with the same energy as athletes as they do their sons,” Canova said. “Everybody wants their son to go to baseball camp or basketball camps or things like that. One of the things that makes Elizabeth and Amelia and M.K. really good players is their parents support them.”
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