Female Athlete of the Week: Central’s Strother finding confidence

Ayanna Strother

WOODSTOCK – For Ayanna Strother it’s all about confidence.

When the Central sophomore guard is shooting with confidence, good things can happen for her and her team.

Last week against Stonewall Jackson was a prime example. Strother made a couple layups early in the second half, and started hitting her jump shot en route to a career-high 22 points. She scored 11 points in the third period to help the Falcons pull away in a 73-33 win.

“I feel like sometimes when I get the ball I just freeze, and I think it’s all mental,” Strother said. “I feel like during the Stonewall game I started shooting a little more and my shot started falling, and I got a little bit of my confidence back.”

Her effort against the Generals helped Strother earn The Northern Virginia Daily’s Female Athlete of the Week for the week of Dec. 28-Jan. 3.

Central coach Bryan Scott said it was nice to see Strother make a few shots and have success scoring the ball.

“I’ve been waiting for that type of game from Ayanna for a while, especially this season,” Scott said. “Ayanna is probably, if not the best, one of the best shooters on the team. … I think when she gets a couple steals and gets a couple layups to fall for her, her confidence level goes up. And she starts shooting and hitting that mid-range jumper, which definitely benefits our team because now teams can’t afford to double team Tamra (Scott) or double team Meredith Phillips inside.”

The Falcons ran into some foul trouble in the first half against Stonewall Jackson, and Strother said she knew she needed to help the team out.

“Two of our main leaders were out, so I felt like I had to step up and try and be a leader,” Strother said.

While Strother showed off her offensive capabilities against the Generals, it all starts on defense for her. She leads the team in steals, averaging almost five steals per game.

Strother said she loves to play on defense.

“When I play defense I look at their eyes. That’s how I can really read where they’re going to pass the ball, and that’s how I can get all my steals,” Strother said. “I like to get steals. I like the feeling of whenever I get a steal the crowd goes wild.”

Strother said she works in the offseason with Erick Green Sr. in Winchester through his training program. He was her fifth grade Amateur Athletic Union coach with the Winchester Rising Stars.

She said she has learned a lot from him.

“I’ve learned pretty much all I know about basketball from him,” Strother said. “He kind of made me into the player that I am today.”

Strother said she doesn’t play AAU basketball anymore, but she did have a great experience with it in her sixth grade year. Strother’s Winchester Rising Stars team won the national championship during her sixth grade year.

“It was a great feeling, it was awesome,” Strother said. “We had a really fun time sight seeing. We also won the tournament, so it was really fun.”

Last year as a freshman Strother started for the Falcons, and said it was a real learning experience.

She said that this year she knows what to expect, and she thinks she’s grown as a player. Scott said that one of the areas he’s seen improvement has been with her footwork.

Scott said of Strother’s footwork.“I think that’s the big thing – that’s the big key. That’s what makes her successful on the defensive end.”

The Falcons are off to a strong 8-1 start. Central has its entire team back from last year, and the team has high goals. The Falcons advanced to the Group 3A state tournament two years ago, losing in the state semifinals. Strother said it’s a big goal for the team to make it back this year.

Scott said if Strother can keep taking and making shots it could go a long way in helping the Falcons have a strong season.

“I want her to just have confidence. Every game she steps out on that court have confidence in her jumper,” Scott said. “It makes us better when she can shoot the ball. That takes pressure off of Tamra and Meredith inside so teams can’t afford to double team or drop off inside on those two.

“…I think it’s just a matter of Ayanna having that confidence. That’s what’s going to help make us be really successful.”

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com