HOLLY POND —
One of the key pieces to the two best basketball teams in Holly Pond history has determined which college she’ll call home for the next two years.
Enveloped by her parents and a pair of coaches in the crowded high school library, Natasha Holcombe signed a national letter of intent Tuesday to attend and play basketball for Gadsden State.
“It’s a really special moment just to experience this with all my friends and all my teammates that I played with for so many years,” the senior said shortly after penning her most important autograph. “I was so blessed to play for coach (Scott) Adams. Now I’m going to move on for someone who plays almost just like him. It’s just a very, very cool experience.”
There was a lot for Holcombe to like about the Cardinals, starting with three-year head coach John Butts. She was quite the fan of transitioning from one leader who genuinely cares about his players — both on and off the court — to another.
“I just felt at home whenever I went there,” Holcombe said. “I loved it.”
Butts, in turn, had plenty of positives to ponder about his newest signee. Not only is she a much-welcomed long-range threat, but Holcombe is a “good student” with “good character” who comes “from a good, stable program with a good head coach.”
“She’s got all the things you look for in a player,” said Butts, whose squad finished 28-6 following a finals appearance at Feburary’s Alabama Community College Conference/Region 22 Tournament. “We’re really trying to get more 3-point shooters in this program than what we had last year. She fits that area really well.”
Lady Bronco coach Scott Adams stood proudly behind Holcombe as she splashed some ink on the dotted line. He was beyond proud to see the two-sport superstar realize her dream of playing at the college level, one many athletes wish for when they start high school.
“She worked hard to accomplish it,” Adams said. “She’s put a lot of time into her game. On top of that, she’s an excellent student. I think that fits very well into what Gadsden State does and what they believe in.
“It’s the perfect fit for her.”
Holcombe’s signing ceremony was the program’s third in the last four years. Haley Terry landed with Wallace State in 2011, and her sister, Taylor, shipped off to Snead State just last spring.
Adams called the trio an inspiration.
“When we’re at the regional and state tournaments, you see all those young girls come to watch,” he said. “When they see that one of the girls they look up to is actually getting an opportunity to play college basketball, they think, ‘Hey, that could be me,’ and they start working to that end. I think it only enhances the program.”
Holcombe, also one of the area’s top volleyball talents, capped off her senior season as an 1,000-point scorer, the recipient of the 2014 Bill Shelton Award and with matching spots on the All-State and Regional Tournament teams. The regional honor was her second in a row.
With Holcombe’s help, Holly Pond finished 29-6 in 2012-13 and 32-4 in 2013-14 — both school records for wins — with back-to-back berths in the Class 3A state championship game.
A broken nose suffered in the latter title tilt robbed Holcombe of the last quarters of her prep career. Knowing she’d eventually pick back up at Gadsden State, however, made the dire situation much easier to endure.
As for Holcombe’s nose, which didn’t warrant a single glance during Tuesday’s festivities? It’s kind of like life about now for the outgoing Lady Bronco.
“It’s good,” she said. “It’s very sore, but it’s good.”
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.