E.A. Sports Today

Sparks flying

Pleasant Valley sophomore post puts everything she has into developing her game, becomes Lady Raiders’ ‘No. 1 option’

Pleasant Valley sophomore post Karmyn Sparks boxes out during the Lady Raiders’ county tournament game against Faith Christian. On the cover she takes a shot and below she calls for the ball. (Photos by B.J. Franklin/GungHo Photos)

Friday at Oxford High School
Girls Games
No. 4 Piedmont vs. No. 5 Alexandria, 4 p.m.
No. 1 Anniston vs. No. 8 Weaver, 7 p.m.
Boys Games
No. 5 Anniston vs. No. 4 Jacksonville, 5:30 p.m.
No. 1 Sacred Heart vs. No. 9 Weaver, 8:30 p.m.

Friday at Jacksonville State
Boys Games
No. 3 Alexandria vs. No. 6 Saks, 4 p.m.
No. 7 Piedmont vs. No. 2 Oxford, 7 p.m.
Girls Games
No. 3 Oxford vs. No. 6 Wellborn, 5:30 p.m.
No. 2 Jacksonville vs. No. 7 Pleasant Valley, 8:30 p.m.

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

JACKSONVILLE – To understand what it has taken for Karmyn Sparks to earn her place on the Pleasant Valley girls basketball team you almost need a degree in anatomy.

This story is all about head and heart — and a little bit of appendix.

The Lady Raiders’ 5-10 sophomore, one of the true post players in the county, has been on a tear of late. She went for 13 points in PV’s Calhoun County Tournament win over Faith Christian Monday, giving her double figures in back-to-back games for the second time this season and fifth time in her last eight games.

Sparks is averaging about seven points a game this season, but nearly 11 over the last six games. Coach Brad Hood just marvels at the improvement she has made, particularly on the offensive end, in the past year.

“I started putting my heart in it,” Sparks said. “I started to understand what was going on, doing what I was supposed to do instead of backing off. Instead of looking at it like I can’t do this, I looked at it head-on and tried to change what I could do.

“Now that I understand it, I love it so much more. Now that I can calm down and know what I’m doing, it feels a whole lot better.”

Sparks scored the Lady Raiders’ first two baskets of the game against Faith and six of their first eight points. Her first basket came on a put-back with one of her five early rebounds and showed just how far she has come as a player.

Other big games in the current run have included a 14-point game against Wellborn and a career-high 15 against Piedmont.

Sparks was always the tallest player in the room. But not only is she tall, she’s long. She came out of the locker room after Monday’s games just about the time Hood was talking to reporters about her length and unfurled that wingspan. She raised her arms over her head and almost touched the ceiling.

“She’s not just a big girl who stands under the goal and she’s working because she knows her teammates are looking for her,” Hood said. “She’s realizing she is Option No. 1. She isn’t the only option … but she is two of the first three.”

That takes care of the head and heart part, but what’s the deal with the appendix? Here’s where her story gets interesting and demonstrates just how much she wanted to play.

Sparks played on all three levels of the program last year – junior high, junior varsity and varsity – but with a silent danger. Her appendix was going bad and she played with it all season. Finally, it had to come out.

“There was a stomach bug going around and that’s what they thought I had,” Sparks said. “That Tuesday morning (of last year’s County Tournament) on the way to school I was still sick. I got to the Ag shop and laid on the table. I was about to give up. But I had worked too hard to get there to give up and lay down and say it’s done.”

She went to nurse and had a temperature of 104.6. Additional tests indicated her white cell count was high. She eventually was hospitalized and the ruptured appendix was removed.

You might think that would be the end of the story, but not even that prevented her from pursuing her dream.

There was a gym in the hospital and she wanted to practice. She wasn’t in the arena when the second-seeded Lady Raiders lost to Weaver in the County Tournament quarterfinals, but a couple days later she was back on the floor in the County Junior High Tournament and eventually was named MVP. Hood brought her up to the varsity during the area tournament.

“That let me know she’s a tough kid,” Hood said. “She just has a lot of heart and loves to play, not just out there because her friends are out there or her parents want her to play.”

As if anyone needed any more evidence of that toughness, Sparks rolled her ankle in a game right before Christmas and it didn’t look good. She was back on the floor four days later.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login