While playing guard, Russaw not only took command of the leadership role in her final season for the Thunder, but almost moved in silence — leading by example more than anything.
“Courtney was the type of leader that you always want,” JCA coach Tommy Miller said. “She said very little, but she was a leader. Her play was always 100 percent. She never gave anything less.”
Russaw finished the year averaging 16.9 points and 13.6 rebounds a game, despite standing at 5-foot-3. She added a 2.7 average a game in assists and steals while shooting 66 percent from the foul line.
As a result, she is The Anniston Star’s Class 1A-2A girls basketball player of the year.
“That’s the way she played,” Miller said. “She played very quickly and smart.
“She’s not very tall, but she blocked out extremely well. Her fundamentals were top-notch.”
Averaging the double-double, Russaw’s numbers certainly raised eyebrows, especially after she spent her junior season as a player who preferred defense. The transition to becoming more of an offensive player came over the summer, when her all-around game came together.
The same case could be made for Jacksonville Christian, which saw its season come together down the stretch.
“At first it was kind of hard because we were young and still trying to figure out what we were doing,” Russaw said. “Then toward the end we got better and started playing better.”
In a critical postseason game, Jacksonville Christian ran through Donoho in the first round of the Class 1A, Area 12 tournament 40-29. The moment highlighted Russaw’s season.
“It was my senior year, so I wanted to play harder and do the best I could,” she said. “I never thought I’d play like I am now when I started. I was just used to watching people play well.”
Despite falling to regular-season area champion Ragland in the next round, Russaw still took her over in her last season on the court for the Thunder.
“She had been a starter for several years, and when Katy (Miller) graduated two years ago and was a leader and Courtney was a starter back then, Courtney began to develop into the leadership role last year,” Jacksonville Christian coach Tommy Miller said. “But at the start of this year she really took it on her shoulders.”
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star