LeCresha Horton: From The Track To The Court
JACKSONVILLE — LeCresha Horton is preparing for her senior day, just not in the way she pictured when she came to Jacksonville State four years ago.
That’s because this year she traded in the track spikes she wore for three years for a pair of basketball shoes.
“It is different,” said Horton, a 5-foot-8 guard, “because now I’m recognized in basketball as a senior, and I’ve been doing track for three years. It’s different, but it’s cool.”
Horton, a standout hoops player at Athens High, had an offer to join the women’s basketball team her freshman year in 2010, but chose to remain on the track team. This past fall, the injury bug bit the Gamecocks during preseason practice. That forced first-year head coach Rick Pietri to begin looking for “a competent body.”
“At the time, I think we had eight players at practice,” Pietri said. “We had gone through a couple of walk-ons who didn’t last. It was near Halloween before we actually made contact (with Horton).”
Pietri’s decision to pursue Horton came after a conversation with Doug Bush, who coached her in high school on their AAU basketball team. He also coached Jacksonville State sophomore guard Destany McLin and JSU signee Leah Strain. McLin and Horton were high school teammates at Athens.
With the blessing of JSU’s track and field coach, Steve Ray, Pietri sent McLin to ask Horton if she was interested in switching to basketball. Horton met with Pietri soon after and joined the team. She described her first day in the locker room as “welcoming.”
“When I came in, there was my jersey, the shoes and some bags,” she said. “I felt welcome instead of, ‘Oh, lord, I’m the weakest link, she’s just a walk-on.’ They treat me like family.”
She was easy to miss most of the season. She is not in the team’s media guide, team photo, or on the cover of the game day programs. Until the Jan. 6 game at Belmont, she was not on the court.
“She was so rusty early from not having played basketball since high school, and this is her fourth year in college, that it took her a while just to acclimate to the sport again,” Pietri said. “From the time she joined us until the time we put her in a game was almost two months.”
When she finally touched the court, she did what she had become accustomed to in her days on the track. She ran and ran fast. She quickly established herself as a weapon on fast breaks. Her speed helped her to her career high eight points in JSU’s 84-76 win over Tennessee State.
“Her assets are clearly her speed,” Pietri said. “She’s fast and she attacks well. Anytime we have an opportunity to get out ahead of people, we certainly want to do that.”
She has played in every game since then, averaging 6.3 minutes and 2.2 points a game. She makes her 47.6 percent from the field.
Horton’s final home game is today at 2 p.m. against Belmont, the same team she got her first chance to play against. In the first meeting, she only played four minutes and did not manage a point. She already knows what she has to do to improve on her first showing.
“Just worry about the details,” she said. “Just staying focused and make sure I do everything right.”