A conversation with Greater Atlanta Christian girls coach Lady Grooms

If you were to search for the most experienced coach in Class AAA girls basketball, you would be hard-pressed (no pun intended) to find one more qualified than Greater Atlanta Christian head coach Lady Grooms.

Credit: Seth Ellerbee

Credit: Seth Ellerbee

Grooms played college basketball for Andy Landers at the University of Georgia from 1988-1992. In 1991, she helped lead the Bulldogs to the SEC Championship and the Elite Eight in the NCAA tournament. Grooms was named first-team All-SEC in 1990 and 1992.

In 1997, Grooms, with Sheryl Swoopes, Lisa Leslie and Cynthia Cooper, were part of the first 16 women to be drafted into the newly formed WNBA. Grooms was drafted by the Utah Starzz, where she played one season before moving to the Sacramento Monarchs where she played seven seasons.

After the WNBA, Grooms took a coaching job at Arlington Christian Academy in Fairburn, where she led the team to Class AA GISA championships in 2009-10 and a Class AAA title in 2011-12. Then GAC came calling.

Grooms, who lives in Tyrone, more than an hour from GAC, considered ignoring the coaching offer, but a chance stop by the campus on a family trip to North Carolina changed her mind. The organization and deep Christian values she saw sold her on the two-hour commute. A few weeks later she took her young daughter to visit the school, and when she approved for enrollment, Grooms took the job.

Grooms is in her third season at GAC, and the Lady Spartans are ranked third in Class AAA with a record of 11-4, 5-0. Leading the way is Robyn Benton. The 5-foot-9 junior shooting guard leads GAC in scoring with 15.9 points a game and has committed to Auburn. Tamiah Lewis, a 5-7 senior, is averaging 14.1 points. Taylor Sutton, a 5-foot-6 junior guard, is averaging 12.1 points and has committed to Georgia Tech.

Grooms took time  Thursday  to discuss her team and other items of interest:

Q. Tell me about your team this season.

A. Well, they're older. My starters are juniors and seniors. They were young last year. There is still an immaturity part, but I have good leaders now. Tamiah Lewis has really stepped up. I think it just takes them a while to get to know me. I think they know I am cool, outside of the gym, but I am very passionate about the details in basketball. I am passionate about being a team player. I do not like show-boating or arrogance. I don't do that. I want you to be a team. Which is why I always stress defense. Defense makes you a team. You have to know you got her. You have to pressure. You have to talk, 'Hey I got your back; come on.' So I am always for the team thing. If you don't play hard on defense, it doesn't matter, I won't play you.

Q. If you had to pick a coach to coach your children, who would it be?

A. My favorite NBA team is the Spurs. They're old-school at its finest. I love Pop, man. (Spurs coach Gregg Popovic). I think he develops players. They have a system, what they call a 'daily vitamin.' Pop, that's why its hard to be on his team. He has three developmental coaches, and the players have to do 20 minutes a day of individual drills and training. Every single day. There are no exceptions ... even Tim Duncan had to do it. That's why those guys stay skilled. Twenty minutes a day. As you get older, you're still working on the important parts of your game. If you're a shooter, you shoot. If you're a post player, you do post drills. If you're a guard, you practice ball-handling. The daily vitamin. That's why I would pick Pop.

Q. Have you paid much attention to the Top 10 in Class AAA?

A. No. That's a drawback to me. I don't even look at any of it. I don't know where we are ranked. Are we good? Are we bad? Are people talking about us? I don't know any of it.

Class AAA top-10

1. Johnson-Savannah (12-1)

2. Beach (11-1)

3. Greater Atlanta Christian (10-4)

4. Hart County (12-2)

5. Ringgold (11-4)

6. Franklin County (10-4)

7. Calhoun (12-3)

8. Monroe (9-3)

9. Redan (10-2)

10. Lakeview-Ft. Oglethorpe (12-4)