Arlington Citizen-Journal

Lady Vols senior trio aims for state while savoring last season together

The Bowie girls basketball trio of Nia Roberts, Nicole Iloanya and Jazmine Holman has been teammates since their days at Barnett Junior High School. And the three have been used to winning big starting with those early days.

Early in their senior season, they’re talking about accomplishing their most impressive feat yet — winning it all. And while each is serious about making the dream of a state title come true, they’re also taking time to savor their final season together.

“Our coach says we’re so close, it’s disgusting,” said Iloanya, a guard/wing who has made a successful return from an ACL injury her junior season. “I’m serious on the court, but at the same time I’m looking to have fun because I know this is the last year.”

So far, so good on having fun —and on winning. The Lady Volunteers have started 8-1 and taken first place in the Colleyville Heritage tournament. The success should continue in district play. Bowie, which was scheduled to open its 3-5A slate Tuesday against Arlington, went undefeated in district a year ago and reached the regional semifinals — the fourth round of the playoffs — before losing to perennial powerhouse Duncanville.

“One of the most exciting things is we still have room for improvement,” said Roberts, the team’s top shooting guard, who is weighing two college scholarship offers.

Bowie coach Kelly Carruthers relies on the trio to bring consistent effort and performance. Each of the three brings a little something different in terms of skill set and personality traits. And they feed off one another’s strengths, the coach said.

“Nicole is probably the most vocal of the three,” Carruthers said “Jaz is probably the quietest but she leads by example. Nia’s the most spunky. So they’re a good mix. And it helps that they’ve been knowing each other for a very long time.”

Holman, the starting point guard, has been on varsity all four years of high school. She said experience has made the three players smarter, better basketball players. But that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to win this season.

“It gets tougher, but I think I am a better player than I was when I came in as a freshman,” said Holman, who plans to play college basketball at Incarnate Word in San Antonio.

Roberts said seniors are counted on not only to make winning plays. They must also win in a classy manner. After all, everyone’s eyes are on them. “It’s not easy being a senior,” Roberts said. “You have to watch what you do because you have people watching you, like underclassmen and people at the school.”

Being a senior is proving easier than what Iloanya endured as a junior. Iloanya, who will run track at San Jose State, had to watch as Roberts and Holman helped Bowie win 32 games while she rehabbed her knee injury.

“It’s great playing with these two, especially because we’ve been playing together so long and the fact that I was hurt last year, I didn’t really get to enjoy it as much as I wanted to my junior year,” Iloanya said. “So this year I’m really thankful and grateful for playing with them.”

Roberts and Holman are grateful to have Iloanya’s vocal leadership on the court. If something needs to be said to a team member or to the group, chances are the one saying it is either Carruthers or Iloanya.

“It’s just who I am,” Iloanya said. “Whatever needs to be said, I’m the one who says it.”

And when it comes to saying what this Bowie team’s potential is, Iloanya isn’t afraid to speak up about how far the Lady Vols can go.

“We have everything it takes,” she said. “We’re aggressive. We’re fast. We’re great on offense. We have more than just seniors. We have juniors who can step up, sophomores who can step up. So we have everything a state championship team would need.”

One thing’s for certain: The trio of seniors will have fun trying to get there.