SAND ROCK – Welch College in Gallatin, Tenn., is nicknamed the Flames.
On Monday afternoon, the Flames picked up another spark in the fire after signing Sand Rock senior post player Maci Brown.
“It feels like home,” Brown said. “I knew when they invited me up there, it was definitely where I wanted to be, where I felt like I should be. With a lot of prayer and a lot of help from (Sand Rock coach) Mrs. (Lisa) Bates, I’m thrilled to be able to go play four more years of the sport that I’ve played since I was so little.”
Brown said she never thought signing a basketball scholarship would become a reality, but she continued to work hard, and things paid off for her in the end. She said she owes a special thanks to her grandfather, former Sand Rock coach James Rowe, for inspiring her.
“Just being able to work in the gym with my grandfather at such a young age, I never would have imagined I’d be signing today to go play. He started when I was probably three or four in my little Upward (basketball) games that he was our coach. He’s at every one of my games, and I try to make him proud.”
To some, Brown’s numbers might not be that eye popping (4.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, a steal and a block per contest), but it’s the intangibles that make her court presence felt.
“She’s not one that gets all the glory,” Bates said. “She’s not the one who shows up with the most points or anything except for rebounds. She does things that aren’t on the stat sheet. She sets the screens for people to get open. She knows where everybody is supposed to be and guides them there. She’s a really good defender. She’s just one of those players that you’ve got to have on the court who is very important. She’s got that spark and fire. She knows the game. She loves the game, and I’m excited for her.”
Like Bates, Welch College coach Katie Bryan feels Brown will fit well into the Flames’ system.
“I watched some film of Maci and one of the best things I think she does well is obviously rebounding,” Bryan said. “She’s able to do the pick-and-roll game really well. I think in girls basketball that’s almost a lost art. I think Maci is going to be able to bring that to our team.
“On the defensive end, one of the very first things Maci and I talked about was if there’s a big girl on the court, she wants to guard them. She doesn’t care how tall they are, how big they are, how good they are, Maci wants to guard them. That’s something we need. I think Maci is going to bring that for us.”
Both Brown and Bryan both knew right from her initial visit it was the perfect fit for them both.
“It’s a small town, similar to Sand Rock,” Brown said. “Just being able to go up there, it’s not too far from home and I’m still able to kind of get off (on my own) a little bit. It’s such a homely place. It’s a good school. It’s a good family-type environment. I’m just excited.”
“I think the first thing I noticed when I met Maci was she was very easy to talk with. I could tell she had a good head on her shoulders,” Bryan said. “When you’re recruiting people that’s a big deal. The conversations we had, it was just very easy with Maci. I kind of knew right off the bat she would fit in with our program. That speaks to her as a person.
“On the basketball court, she’s able to do some of the fundamental things right. That’s important when you’re looking at someone to come play for you. I think fundamentally Maci is right where she needs to be. I also think she has a lot of potential to grow. I’m going to hopefully help her with that.”
Although Brown has found her collegiate home, it’s still bittersweet for her to leave Sand Rock behind.
“My new team is precious, but the girls I have at Sand Rock, there is nothing that will be able to replace them,” Brown said. “They’re such a strong support system, such a strong group of girls to be around.
“Mrs. Bates has been everything and so much more. She’s been another mom. I think I’ve probably spent more time with her than I have my real mom. She has definitely always been that phone call you needed, the text you needed. She’s driven me countless places. She’s stayed after practice. She’s dedicated so much time into me. I think she’s proud to be sending me off.”
“She’s crucial to have on the floor. There’s a difference when she’s out there,” Bates said. “It’s not something you can put your finger on. Her presence on the floor, her defense, her rebounding. She does the little things, and I’m glad she’s getting recognition for them.”