Anna Claire Knight: The lone senior

Hayden Boudreaux

Having to lead one of the youngest teams in women’s college basketball is a difficult task, but what makes it even more difficult is being the only senior. Guard Anna Claire Knight has been placed in this situation, and she is just the person for the job.

Knight’s high school career at Trinity Christian School convinced the coaching staff at Georgia Southern that she would be integral in the future of Eagle basketball. After winning a state championship her freshman season and being named to the Georgia All-State team her first two seasons, she received her scholarship offer.

With two parents that graduated from GS and the early interest, Knight was sure of her decision to take her talents to Statesboro. Through all four years of high school she was named to the all-state team every year and was named Heart of Georgia Player of the Year all four seasons. She turned down offers from other Southern Conference schools and Mercer.

“I knew by my junior year that this is where I wanted to be. Both my parents went here and Georgia Southern has always had a special place in my heart. I made the decision early that this is where I wanted to play,” Knight said.

As a freshman, Knight moved quickly to make a name for herself. She appeared in every game while averaging 5.8 points per game shooting 37.4 percent. She also found a place in the spotlight as she drained a buzzer beater that led her team past Mercer. Her performance earned her a spot on the 2011 SoCon All-Freshman team and her off the court talents got a spot on the 2011 SoCon Academic Honor Roll.

During the postseason of her freshman year was the first time that current head coach Chris Vozab got a chance to see her play, and she was thrilled with the potential.

“I thought she was quiet and very skilled on the court, and I felt that we had a hidden gem if she could come out of her shell. Over time, the way her confidence has grown has been really fun to watch. Her sophomore year we pushed her to take more ownership on the court,” Coach Vozab said.

By the end of spring 2012, Knight averaged 11.7 points per game and 5.9 rebounds per game. Against Georgia State that year, she registered 20 points and 11 rebounds in her first career double-double. This performance earned her one of two SoCon Student Athlete of the Year Awards. She continued her dominance off the court as well, being named to the SoCon All-Academic Team and SoCon Academic Honor Roll.

“We wanted her to get out in the forefront more with her abilities. Her junior year, she completely did that as a dominant player in the Southern Conference day in and day out,” Coach Vozab said.

Things really got rolling in Knight’s junior year. She started in 30 of the 31 games that season and finished third in the conference in scoring. She averaged 15.9 points per game and was seventh in three-pointers made. She made Georgia Southern history against Samford as she posted 16 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in the program’s first ever triple-double.

During that same season, she also surpassed the 1,000 point mark and was again a two-time player of the week for the SoCon. Her efforts at the end of the season convinced both the Media Poll and the Coaches Poll to name her to the All-SoCon team for the first time in her career as well as the SoCon All-Tournament team.

“I had to work on just being more aggressive as an offensive player. That’s what I’ve been trying to develop throughout (my career). It’s been about being strong and aggressive, that’s been my main focus,” Knight said.

As the Lady Eagles have moved from playing in the Southern Conference to the Sun Belt conference, Knight has taken on the only senior position on the team. There is one other junior in the starting lineup, with the rest made up of sophomore and true freshman.

The Lady Eagles have won only four of their 23 games this year. While it has undoubtedly been a rough year, the team is very young, and Knight has held the team together with tenacity. She leads the team in minutes played, with the team scoring more consistently when she is on the court. With 11.1 points per game, she is one of three Eagles that average in the double digits and leads the team in rebounds with 5.6 per game.

“This has been a great experience. I think we have a young team and they have a ton of potential to continue to grow this program, and they will be very successful in this conference,” Knight said.

It is easy to lead a team when things are going well. What truly tests the character of a leader is how they respond when things aren’t going well. Knight has continued to lead her team through these tough times and has shown her will to fight through this rough patch and leave the team better than she found it.

“I’ve learned from a lot of people in my past. I like to lead by example but now that I am in this position by myself, I have to be a vocal leader. I try to get my teammates involved and do whatever it takes to take advantage of every opportunity while I’m on the court,” Knight said.

Knight plans to graduate this spring and go on to graduate school to become a coach. But, before that can happen, there are still six games remaining in the season and plenty of time for her and the Lady Eagles to end on a high note, including an away game against Appalachian State. Her next performance is scheduled for tonight at 5 p.m. in Hanner against Troy.