Keara Sexton is usually at ease on the basketball court.
But as she made her way to the scorer’s table to check in and make her college basketball debut, the former Scottsboro all-state performer was battling a case of nervousness.
“My heart was pounding,” Sexton said.
Once she got on the court, however, Sexton found her normal basketball feelings again.
“Once I got a feel for the pace, a feel for the game, I was fine,” Sexton said. “It was exciting.”
That was the first step on the latest journey of Sexton’s basketball career, one that followed an impressive playing career at Scottsboro High School.
Sexton helped Scottsboro go 84-44 with two area championships during her four varsity seasons, including a 29-4 season and a berth in the Class 5A State Final Four as a junior — Scottsboro’s first state tournament appearance in 40 years — and a 23-11, Northeast Regional runner-up campaign as a senior.
Sexton averaged 15.3 points, 3.7 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 4.2 steals per game during her junior season and 13 points, four rebounds, 3.9 assists and 2.8 steals per game during her senior season. Sexton was a was a two-time All-Northeast Regional performer, including the Regional MVP in 2018 and was selected to the 2018 Class 5A All-State Tournament Team and was a 2018 Class 5A third-team all-state selection.
The point guard’s play attracted the attention of numerous college coaches, and she ultimately signed with Alabama Community College powerhouse Shelton State of Tuscaloosa. She quickly became a key contributor for the Buccaneers last season, averaging averaged 5.6 points, 2.4 assists, 1.4 rebounds and 1.0 steal while playing an average of 15 minutes per game for a Shelton State team that went 29-2, won the Alabama Community College Conference championship and was scheduled to play in the National Junior College Athletic Association national championship tournament before it was canceled because of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.
Sexton said she found her role with the Bucs by “doing my job.”
“At the very beginning, it was hard,” she said. “You’ve got to work at it. The more we practiced, it got easier (vs. that level of competition). It doesn’t matter how big or fast the person guarding me or I’m guarding is. I just had to do my job. You have to know your role, play your part, make sure you’re doing your part right.”
Shelton State head coach Madonna Thompson said won the team’s “Hustle Award” for this year based on her work in practice and games as well as for her growth as a leader. When Thompson recruited Sexton in high school, she told Sexton one area where she needed to improve was to become a more vocal leader. Thompson saw that transformation happen last season.
“She became such a vocal leader for us by the end of the season,” Thompson said. “She was always talking, picking people up, cheering them on and teaching. She’s a great vocal leader.”
Thompson said Sexton, one of four returning sophomores, will have an expanded role on the court and in the leadership department next season.
“This is her team to lead next year,” Thompson said. “Freshmen follow sophomores. They just do. It’s a role she’ll accept and enjoy. She knew her role (last season) and she knew when times were she needed to step up and make it happen. She’s going to have to step up more next year and make more happen, and I think she will. She does her job, and her job is about to get bigger. I have no doubts with Keara. She’ll be ready to roll.”
Sexton said the roster shakeup would not change the goals of the Shelton State players and coaches next season.
“For us to be better than this year’s team (is the goal),” Sexton said. “Every team should want to be better than the previous year.(With four sophomores and eight freshman) hopefully we can have the chemistry that last year’s team had and play as well together on the court as last year. If we do, we will win.”
Sexton said she’s eager to return to Tuscaloosa to begin working out with teammates in advance of next season. Back at home during the pandemic, Sexton has spent a lot of time working on her game daily and conditioning to be in the type of physical shape required to play Shelton State’s fast-paced tempo.
Sexton wants to play two more seasons of college basketball after her Shelton State career ends, but the rising sophomore isn’t focused on her next stop.
“I’m going to let my play take care of it and see where it takes me,” Sexton said. “I’ve got next season to worry about.”
Thompson said Sexton has no reason to worry about finding another basketball home after leaving Shelton State.
“She’s going to be a kid (four-year schools) want,” Thompson said. “She’s a real coachable kid. She’s going to do her school work, she’s going to represent (your program) well. She’s just a great student-athlete. She knows what she needs to do to succeed.”