For Heritage basketball’s Sade Harrell, producing on the court for her team has never been an issue.
On both ends of the floor, Harrell had elevated her game in each of her first two seasons playing for the Patriots. She averaged double figures in points and led the team in rebounds.
With many of her teammates set to graduate at the conclusion of her sophomore season, however, Harrell knew that her talents alone weren’t going to be enough. Her growth as a leader was what she needed to see the biggest improvement on.
“(My leadership) took a big leap this year,” Harrell said. “It wasn’t just about what I was doing on the court. I had to work with them off the court. A lot of them just didn’t know some stuff because they hadn’t experienced it. It was just about talking to them the right way.”
Harrell, alongside fellow rising junior Kristyn Goshay, were tasked with leading a young, inexperienced Patriots roster heading into the 2019-20 season. Joining Harrell and Goshay in the starting five included freshman Jaliyah Weekes and sophomore Morgan Snipes, who had scored just three points the previous season.
With more weight placed on Harrell’s shoulders, the junior thrived. Harrell went on to set new career-highs in points (15), rebounds (8.8), steals (2.3) and blocks (2), making her an easy selection as the Citizen’s girls basketball Player of the Year.
Harrell and the Patriots fell short of winning a third consecutive Region 3-AAAAAA championship after losing to Grovetown in the title game, but went on to win the school’s first-ever playoff game, a 57-49 win at home against Coffee.
The 5-foot-11 standout scored 10 or more points in 19 of her 26 games played and netted seven 20-point games with a season-high 27 points coming in a win against Berkmar.
Harrell credited her killer instinct to a lot of her success on the offensive end this past season.
“I think I’ve become more aggressive,” Harrell said. “At this point, I know that if I need to take over, that’s what I have to do. I just think I make better decisions. I’ve grown a lot.”
Harrell finds herself just 37 points away from 1,000 for her career and will have a chance to reach 750 career rebounds with a strong senior season.
“37 points, that’s right there,” Harrrell said. “I could have got that this year. I’m really just focused on getting better every year. I want to bring everything up a little bit each year.”
As good as Harrell has been on the offensive end in her first three years, it was her defense that stood out the most at times this past season.
Harrell recorded 10 or more rebounds in eight different games and recorded three or more steals in 12 different games. Harrell also posted three five-block games against rival Rockdale, Salem and Spencer.
“That’s my favorite side of the court,” Harrell said. “I love defense. Even back when I started playing basketball, that’s what I was worried about. Coach (Eric Spivey) realized that defense was how we were going to win games this year. We worried about our defense a lot. I care more about shutting them down than I do scoring.”
Overall, Harrell said she was really proud of the way her team played this past season with so many new faces stepping into bigger roles.
“It’s always good when the rest of my team plays well,” Harrrell said. “I don’t ever want to feel like I’m just the one person. I want everyone to look good because it’s a team sport. It’s not just about one person.”
Harrell also thanked her family, including her father Marc Harrell for always showing support at her games.
“All of the hard work that he’s put into me, I just want to give it back to him,” Harrell said. “I know he works hard to get everything that I need in order to be successful. One day, I want to be able to give it all back to him.”