Bernard toughs it out in senior season
If you look the word "warrior" up in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Tia Bernard. That's right. Tia Bernard gets this year's nomination as basketball warrior.
The 5-foot, 1-inch senior guard for De Soto might not be overpowering in her size, but she plays with a lot of heart.
Her unusual basketball story would be enough to make even Shaquille O'Neill rethink his basketball career.
Evidence of her warrior spirit came on her 15th birthday. After having her braces removed, Bernard was ready to play a little basketball at Sport-to-Sport in Lawrence.
But while hustling for a loose ball during the game an opposing player's knee got in the way.
"One of my teeth popped out and went through my lip and slid on the floor in front of me," said Bernard. "The other two were twisted and pushed back on my tongue."
Bernard had to have three root canals in a year's time and admitted she was a little nervous to play at the Lawrence gym again.
However, she has proven she's fine with playing in other gyms around the area.
Bernard, who is the first player off the bench for the Wildcats, has doubled her point production to eight this year. Her offensive forte this season is her shooting from no man's land.
Against Perry-LeCompton last Friday, Bernard drained a three pointer from well past the line. Not only can she hit from way out, but she does it for average also. So far for the season, Bernard has connected on 9-of-21 (42.9 percent) threes.
But Bernard's main asset is her ability on the other side of the court.
"Coach (Spencer) looks at me more for my defense than my offense," said Bernard. "I love the adrenaline of getting after it.
"I love to go one-on-one," she continued. "I go after something until I get it (the ball)."
According to Bernard, if the opposition has the ball in front of her, she is going to take it.
"I do take some chances, too," she said. "But they are smart chances."
If there is a part of the game she needs to improve, it would be her ball handling, as is evidence of her 13-4 turnover to assist ratio.
Bernard and her sister, former Wildcat and current Neosho County player Tiffany, started playing ball under their father's tutelage when Tia was 8 years old. In those early years they were the only two girls on their team.
"I learned never to be afraid of sports or the opposition," said Bernard. "I played with boys. Why would I fear playing with girls? It's a sport, and you just play the best you can."
Bernard admits this year's 3-1 mark is more refreshing than the six win season the Wildcats posted last year.
Why the turn around this season? Team maturity.
"The ball team has matured into a family this season," said Bernard. "We know what the other players are thinking and have a lot more leadership."
Losing wasn't fun, but Bernard said playing with Tiffany was a thrill last year.
"It was the biggest dream I could've had," said Bernard on playing with her older sister. "We work well together. That was an awesome experience."
Bernard stays busy when she's not at practice by either working at Sonic or just hanging out with family and friends.
She carries better than a 3.5 grade point average and hopes to study child psychology in college with a minor in education or sociology. Bernard will continue her basketball career if an offer comes along. She has already been accepted at Kansas University and MidAmerica Nazarene University.