Can Derrica Gilbert lead Minden to the promised land?

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Watching Minden’s girls basketball team, the first thing that jumps out to me is their skill-level.

When I watch Minden play, it’s clear to me that this team is special.

They have a few holes in their game as a team: turnovers, free-throw shooting, and a nasty habit of starting the second half in a funk.

The turnover problem will be addressed once senior guard Bre Rodgers comes back from injury.

Free throw shooting will have to be fixed in the gym after practice.

Lethargy just happens sometimes when you are a dominant team. It’s easy to lose focus.

Luckily for the Lady Tiders, they have a leader like Derrica Gilbert.

“That kid is special,” Minden head coach Jacob Brown said. “Probably the best post/forward I’ve had at Minden.”

I haven’t been around long enough in Minden to confirm, but it’s obvious to anyone watching that Gilbert has been the best player on the floor all year.

“Derrica is a leader for us and in more than one way,” Brown said. “Leadership is more than scoring. She is one of our hardest workers, she is coachable and she is vocal when she needs to be vocal.”

I’ve watched tons of high school girls basketball in my lifetime (that’s what happens when your high school girls team was honestly better than the boys). Gilbert is the real deal.

Let’s get the easy stuff out of the way: she can handle the ball, she is strong and fundamentally sound, she can shoot from anywhere on the court, and she can defend.

She’s leading Minden in scoring with 18.5 points per game and she averages seven rebounds a game for good measure.

She comes up with big baskets when the Lady Tiders need to stop the bleeding.

Most importantly, she seemed to me to be the leader of her team.

Some people think of a leader as the person yelling the most. In my mind, it’s the person on the team who always knows time and score. It’s the person who the teammates look to when they need a basket or a big stop.

“She has a quiet, calming presence on our team,” Brown said. “Derrica shows most of her leadership by example.”

Watching Gilbert play, it’s clear that she takes her role seriously. She doesn’t goof off. She doesn’t take plays off.

She makes early-season mistakes, just like everyone. The Lady Tiders have been plagued by turnovers early in the season despite their nearly unblemished record.

“In early games this year the ball has been in her hands when teams press us,” Brown said. “I have confidence in that because she has the ability to lead the fast break.”

Once Rodgers returns, Gilbert won’t have to shoulder so much ballhandling responsibility. She will be able to return to her natural role as a scorer on offense.

With Rodgers and Gilbert, Minden can be a force in the state this year. When you add senior forwards Tayler Banks and Destini Powell, Minden looks to have one of the most talented starting fives in the area.

“She has a kind spirit, but she is a fierce competitor,” Brown said. “She just wants to win.”

Minden is deep, it’s not just those four players. They all seem to know their role. That’s how you shine as a basketball team.

Against Haughton on Monday, the Tiders found Gilbert when they needed to stop the bleeding. She delivered.

“Derrica strives to be the best version of herself, never focusing on individual stats but she wants to do whatever it takes for her team to play at a high level,” Brown said. “Derrica is a gym rat.”

Minden will have another successful season if they continue to play that way. They will quell the turnovers as they play with each other more.

Most importantly, they have a leader in Gilbert whose poise is matched by her talent.

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