Sometimes a Penny is worth more than you expect -- especially if your name is Adrienne Pratcher.
The 5-foot-6 senior from Memphis, Tenn., got her money's worth last summer when she worked out with former NBA star Penny Hardaway. "He's been a mentor," says Pratcher, who played for the Memphis Lady Bobcats this summer and will return for her senior year at Memphis East High School in the fall.
"He and my mom dated in high school," says Pratcher.
Because of that connection, he came to one of her games when she was a sophomore. After he saw her play, he realized her potential, and brought her down to Memphis University to fine tune her game.
"He taught me how to work hard, and to focus on being the best player I can be," says Pratcher, a strong point guard who can pretty much get anywhere she wants to go on the basketball court. She can nail the three, pull up for the mid-range jumper, fall away off the bounce, or go hard to the basket and finish with either hand.
An example of the last skill came at the adidas Super 64 National Championships in Las Vegas, when Pratcher came down the right side of the court in a one-on-one situation. Instead of powering through to the hoop, Pratcher spun around the defender from the right block, wheeled through the lane and finished with a spinning lefthander.
But Pratcher would actually rather make the sweet dish than finish strong, and there was no hesitation when she was asked to choose between burying a jumper or delivering a perfect pass. "The pass," she said – which is one reason the schools on her list (Texas A&M, Arizona, Kentucky, Memphis and Florida) are all eager to get her to commit.
But it's not all about basketball for Pratcher: She carries an overall 4.5 GPA, and her Lady Bobcat coach, Fred Echols, says "I'd never seen a 5.0 on a report card before." That of course is because Pratcher took AP English and History, getting some extra credits – but her favorite subject is math.
"I'm going to try calculus this year," she says.
Pratcher also is going to try to take Memphis East deeper into the Tennessee tournament, as the Mustangs were 23-10 last year and won three playoff games by two points or fewer before falling to Millington Central (which played for the state title) in the Regionals. And one way that Pratcher will do that is by defending as well as scoring. "I love to take the other team's best player," she says.
And speaking of best players, Pratcher's favorite might have been the best ever in the women's game. "I watched Cynthia Cooper every game I could," says Pratcher of the former Houston Comet great. "She knew when to score, and when to get her teammates involved. She was a leader."
Clay Kallam is a contributor to ESPN HoopGurlz. He is the founder of Full Court Press, an online magazine devoted to women's basketball; the author of "Girls Basketball: Building a Winning Program" and a voter for several national awards, including McDonald's and Parade All-Americans and the Wooden Award.