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Sweet Music On and Off the Court
The following article first appeared in issue No. 3 of the Flames Illustrated game program for the 2012-13 basketball season, which was available at the Vines Center between Jan. 3-19. LaKendra Washington and the Lady Flames will wrap up a three-game homestand Saturday at 5 p.m., when they play host to Big South newcomer Longwood.
At first glance, LaKendra Washington seems like two different people on and off the court.
When she hits the floor, the Lady Flames senior guard is as focused as they come, with a skill set refined to spark key momentum shifts.
"I'm a defensive player and I like to shoot the three. That's pretty much what I do," Washington summed up her strengths with an easy-going shrug.
Her stats throughout the 2011-12 season (Washington finished as the team leader in three-point field goal percentage and ranked third in steals, including a career-high six steals in a win over Virginia-Wise) reinforce those strong points.
"If I see a ball coming and I think I can get to it, I'm going to steal it right away. If I see a person passing a ball, I'm going to reach out there and try for the tip," she explained with a smile. "With my three-pointer, for some reason I just have that touch. When it comes off my fingertips, I know if it's going in, how it's going in - I just know."
"She's instant offense and can definitely knock down the three, and she's a thief as well," head coach Carey Green stated with a wide grin, "a pickpocket on defense."
Assistant coach Andrea Bloodworth, too, chimed in with praise for Washington's developed technique defensively and behind the arc. However, she was just as quick to bring up another, different side of Washington.
"Off the court she's just a hoot," Bloodworth declared. "Even her facial expressions are priceless. She is so funny. She's a joy to have, helps us have a lot of laughs and is just such a fun young lady."
In fact, though Lady Flames fans only see the guard's focused execution, Washington is characterized by her vibrant personality away from the hardwood.
The aforementioned sense of humor she possesses lends itself to a bright, easy laugh. Teammates and coaches know her for her creative spirit; a trait at which her graphic design major, unusual in the world of college athletics, hints.
"It's a lot of computers, computer-drawing," she explained, wiggling her eyebrows as if mystified. "I'm not used to that, and it can be pretty tough, but I'm passing all the classes so, hey, I'm doing good!"
She laughed, then added, "I do like to draw, though. I did that in high school and a lot in middle school. I've always loved to draw and I'm having a good experience learning more about it."
While drawing may be Washington's personal favorite, her greatest claim to creative fame is her singing voice.
"A couple of years ago, we went to Israel as a team over the summer. She sang a capella in a few different places, like Mary Magdalene's church - one of those places where [the sound] just reverberates - and it was unbelievable," Bloodworth gushed. "Whatever she chose to sing, it was gorgeous. Just perfect."
Green recalled Washington's singing on the Israel trip as well.
"She sang a couple of times in some of the temples and such, and her voice just rang out. It was just beautiful, and she loves the Lord and it's just another one of her talents that she uplifts for his glory," he agreed.
When asked to confirm or deny rumors of her vocal prowess, Washington rolled her eyes, grinning widely.
"Oh, my goodness," she exclaimed sheepishly, then happily ceded, "Yeah, that's true. I love, love to sing."
Washington even went on to describe her pre-game routine of listening to her favorite gospel music; and, for those wondering, laughingly admitted that, yes, she does indeed always sing along.
But should Lady Flames fans expect to see the senior's creative tendencies influence her game?
While Washington herself was unsure of the crossover, coaches certainly saw evidence of a connection.
"She shows creativity in her tricky ball handling every now and again, putting a good move on somebody," Bloodworth noted.
Green, on the other hand, offered a different perspective. He, too, saw Washington's alter-ego emerge on the court - just not in her mechanics.
"She's very competitive in basketball, which keeps her structured and effective when she's on the floor," noted the head coach, once again referencing his player's focused skills.
It is in her intangibles that Green notices Washington's creativity.
"This season, unfortunately, she's been having a lot of health issues," he explained, "but she's got this beautiful voice, and when she gets down and out - when things are not going her way - I think she simply uplifts the Lord in song."
"Off the floor, on the floor, I'll have a song in my head to keep me encouraged," Washington stated.
And while the crowd at the Vines Center might not be able to hear the song, it can certainly appreciate the effect the music in Washington's head has on her game. Behind the arc or behind the scenes, her competitive spirit focuses her play while her creativity centers her attitude.
Ryley Rush is a Liberty University freshman and is a freelance writer for Liberty Athletics.