He made her laugh.
That might seem like such a simple thing but in this case it meant the difference between Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Phenix City, Alabama and Lawson State Community College in Birmingham, Alabama.
“That’s the way to get to my heart,” said LaShandria Mallard of Lawson State Community College Women’s Head Basketball Coach Aubrey Wiley, the guilty party in regard to making her laugh. Mallard, or “Slim” as she is best-known by all at Perry High School, signed a scholarship to Lawson Thursday at Perry High.
“It’s like I already knew him (Wiley) and I was playing for him. He called me every day until I visited. And when I visited, I felt like I was at home. Like I had no worries. Like I was still at home in Georgia. And that’s what made me make the decision to go there.”
A follow-up to him making her laugh – really, having a sense of humor: “It’s my thing,” she … no surprise … laughed.
Not her only thing. There’s also softball. There’s also track, and no doubt there’s also that whole basketball “thing”… Which she only took up in seventh grade because she wanted to be a three-sport letterman and, she taught herself.
“When she came over from Peach (County),” said Lady Panthers Head Coach Reggie West on how that all worked out favorably. “And we went to summer camp at Mercer. And one of the things I wanted to instill in our program was a sense of toughness, a sense of grit.
“That first summer game at Mercer, probably about three minutes in and she’s on the floor for ‘50-50’ ball. I knew right then she was the right fit. I knew she was the one who was going to take us to a higher level. Based on her physicality. Based on her energy.
“She’s been what I call a rebounding machine (averaging 11.2 this past year). She’s been a difference maker for our program this year. We’re excited for her. Excited just looking at what’s ahead of her at Lawson state. And I think she’ll be a good fit for them.”
Wiley obviously agreed. In particular, he said he liked her size – 6-foot, the fact she runs the floor well, rebounds well and plays tough.
Added Mallard, who said she would probably major in nursing or biology or physical therapy (the nursing to help her mom, she said, who is also in that profession): “He also likes my enthusiasm. How passionate I am. And you can’t pretend to have passion. It has to come to you naturally.
“And he loved how passionate I was for the game. He said he loved how I get hyped and how I get the crowd hyped.”
He also said this: “We want her to come and (we want to) develop her into a complete player. She’s also qualified, so if she comes in and does what she’s supposed to do, she can lead me (at the 4 or 5 spot, he said).”
That would mean leading a team that won the Alabama Community College Conference title in 2015 and finished 22-7 and made the Final Four this past year – in fact kept out of the championship game by just four points, he said.
Now with her being added to the mix … well, let’s just say she might continue to laugh, but opponents won’t.